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Hospitals Plan for Worse-Case Scenario COVID-19 Surge

Patti Singer

Tennis courts, playgrounds and ball fields are supposed to be vacant after Mayor Lovely Warren ordered on March 27, 2020, that they be closed because of COVID-19. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

COVID-19 has changed the way people live and the language they use.

The virus has introduced the terms “social distancing” and “flatten the curve.”

The latest phrase is “surge capacity” — the ability of health systems to handle a large amount of cases in a relatively short period of time.

On March 27, county officials and leadership from Rochester Regional Health and UR Medicine explained a four-phase plan to handle a massive influx of cases.

As of 4 p.m March 30, the county had 257 confirmed cases. Of the 42 people hospitalized, 25 were in intensive care. The county has recorded eight deaths.

The county wants to avoid a surge that could overwhelm the community’s health system and make it extremely difficult to treat COVID-19 patients and provide care to people with other conditions.

That is the reasoning behind social distancing. Staying home, and maintaining a six-foot perimeter from others when outside for essential tasks, is supposed to spread the number of new cases into a manageable flow. A more even distribution of cases will flatten the curve, a graphic representation of the number of cases over time.

But if that doesn’t happen, the county and the health systems are preparing to deal with a spike in cases. In a worst-case scenario, or the fourth-phase of the plan, the county is preparing to build a field hospital for non-urgent patients who are recovering from the virus.

New York is requiring communities to submit plans for how they would deal with a surge, and Monroe County’s was approved by the state Department of Health.

Rochester Regional and UR Medicine already have implemented the first phase: freeing up beds by postponing elective surgeries and procedures.

The second phase involves using other space in hospitals and outpatient clinics for COVID-19 patients.

The third phase would have hospital putting two non-COVID patients into one room and adding beds, staff and equipment to non-clinical space.

As for that equipment, officials from each hospital system said at a news conference March 27 that they are getting supplies. As for ventilators, they said they use machines that are used to give anesthesia, or they could put two people on one ventilator.

To recap the past week of COVID-19 news in Monroe County:

Mayor closes playgrounds. Basketball and tennis courts, playgrounds, athletic fields and other outdoor recreation areas were closed March 27 until further notice. COVID-19 can live on hard surfaces such as plastic and steel. Also, contact in pickup games is against the advice of medical professionals.

The city said that where possible, it would temporarily remove equipment.

“I understand that many people, young and old, think that they won’t get this virus, or they won’t get seriously sick,” Mayor Lovely Warren said in a news release. “Simply put, if you think you can’t get sick, that you can’t die from this virus, you are wrong. You can get sick. You can and will make others sick, including people you love. Stop playing ball and working out on our courts. They are closed. I will be the first one out there when they reopen. But, for now, stay safe and stay home.”

According to the Monroe County Department of Public Health, children younger than 10 and elders in their 90s have been infected.

Angus Fung, was playing tennis March 27 with three friends at Genesee Valley Park. “It’s unfortunate. Given all the circumstances surrounding it, I do see how it’s necessary. With nothing else to do, it is nice to have the option to get out here.”

Even though tennis is not a contact sport, Martynas Snarskis, part of the group, said the announcement wasn’t a surprise.

City parks are open for walking. As of March 27, the dog park at Cobbs Hill was open, and humans were encouraged to practice social distancing.

Monroe County announced a site for mandatory quarantine. The county will use the 43-room Clarion Pointe Rochester hotel, 2729 Monroe Ave. in Brighton, as safe housing for people can’t be in isolation in their current residence. The county has exclusive use of the hotel for the next two months. The county will staff the hotel with security and health department personnel to ensure the individuals remain in safe quarantine in their rooms at all times. They will not be allowed to leave until their quarantine or isolation order expires. No visitors will be allowed. The county has also coordinated with law enforcement and public safety agencies serving the hotel. All of the individuals in the hotel will be Monroe County residents.

New York state Division of Parole releases inmates to reduce risk of transmission. Under direction of the parole bureau, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office released 51 inmates. None were experiencing symptoms and there are no COVID-19 cases in the jail. Of the 51 released: 8 are sex offenders; 12 are transient and were transported to suitable housing; one was taken to Rochester General Hospital for a mental health evaluation; and 10 have electronic monitoring devices.