Seattle: With her due date fast approaching, Kelly McCarty packed a bag with nursing tops, a robe, slippers and granola bars. Last week’s ultrasound, she said, showed “this baby is head down and ready to go.”
But the new coronavirus has thrown her a curveball, bouncing her and about 140 other expectant moms from their first-choice hospital to another 30 minutes away. The birth unit at the Edmonds, Washington, hospital is needed for COVID-19.
With capacity stretched thin, U.S. hospitals are rushing to find beds for a coming flood of patients, opening older closed hospitals, turning single rooms into doubles and re-purposing other medical buildings.
Louisiana is making deals with hotels to provide additional hospital beds and has converted three state parks into isolation sites for patients who can’t go home. Illinois is reopening a 314-bed suburban Chicago hospital that closed in September.
In New York, the city’s convention center is being turned into a temporary hospital. At Mount Sinai Morningside hospital, heart surgeons, cardiologists and cardiovascular nurses now care for coronavirus patients in a converted cardiac unit.
U.S. hospitals reported operating 74,000 ICU beds in 2018, with 64% filled by patients on a typical day. But available ICU beds are not evenly distributed, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal data on hospitals that provided a cost report to Medicare in fiscal year 2018.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
If other countries have the same experience as China, 15% to 20% of COVID-19 patients will have severe illness. About 5% could become sick enough to require intensive care....