Mar 30, 2020 - Health

Health care workers in the calm before the coronavirus storm

A white coronavirus testing tent outside of a hospital emergency room.

A hospital in Pennsylvania. Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Several parts of the country have not been overwhelmed by coronavirus cases yet, but hospitals are sitting in what they view as the calm before the storm.

The bottom line: Health care workers in these relatively quiet areas are urging people to stay home for the foreseeable future so they don't become the next coronavirus hotspot.

What we're hearing: Workers in areas that haven't tallied large numbers of coronavirus cases know more are coming, and they want their communities to take social distancing seriously.

  • Ohio was among the first states to shut down businesses and urge people to stay at home, which has helped keep cases manageable, said Robert Wyllie, the head of medical operations at Cleveland Clinic. The hospital system projects peak COVID-19 cases will come within the next four to eight weeks, and cases likely will consume at least half of the system's beds, Wyllie said.
  • Michael Ring, a cardiologist at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Washington, sits on the opposite end of the state from Seattle. Their staff are delaying almost all procedures because they "don't want patients to come to the office," he said on a conference call last week.
  • The Montana Hospital Association asked for a shelter-in-place declaration last week, and Gov. Steve Bullock issued it a day later.

The big picture: The Trump administration has not issued a national order for people to stay at home, but providers think it's time to do so.

  • "It makes more sense to do it as a nation as opposed to some states doing and some states not," Wyllie said. "To be effective, we should all do it together."

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