Feb 27, 2020 - Health

Hospitals have been preparing for coronavirus uptick

Three fully masked medical workers stand inside the doors of a hospital ER.

Health care workers in Italy preparing for coronavirus cases. Photo: Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

Many U.S. hospitals have been stocking extra supplies and refreshing disaster preparation plans over the past month in the event the coronavirus becomes more prominent domestically.

The big picture: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned this week that this infectious disease could spread more in the U.S., and hospitals have anticipated such scenarios.

Where it stands: The American Hospital Association told its members last week that they "should be prepared for the possible arrival of patients with COVID-19," directing them to use a CDC checklist for coronavirus patients and to monitor protective equipment needs.

  • Shruti Gohil, an infectious disease doctor at the University of California Irvine, said her hospital system and others always have emergency plans for these types of outbreaks and disasters. Their planning ramped up in January after more cases were coming out of China.
  • A spokesperson with the University of California San Francisco health system, which has already treated patients who had the coronavirus, said it has 40 airborne infection isolation rooms and can "adapt additional rooms" if needed.
  • Most large regional systems are working with local and state public health departments on how to screen for potential patients, a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center spokesperson said.

The bottom line: Hospitals handled Ebola and Zika in recent years and have already recorded a busy flu season. Occupancy statistics show hospitals have enough beds to treat coronavirus patients, although preparedness varies by hospital and is more likely to be regimented in urban facilities.

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