Baker Says More ICU Beds Are Needed; COVID Death Rate in Mass. is Lower than Other States

Gov. Charlie Baker announced good and bad news on Thursday requiring the anticipated surge of COVID-19 cases in the coming 20 days – with the good news being there are ample Acute beds and the state’s death rate from COVID-19 is lower than other states, and the bad news being that even with an expansion of ICU beds at existing hospitals the state will likely be short up to 500 beds.

State officials, in response, are looking to build Field Hospitals to take the stress off of medical cen­ters – including hiring a contractor that can quickly begin to build out places like the South Boston Convention Center if need be. The plan to build up to 1,000 beds in this fashion around the state.

Gov. Baker’s COVID-19 Response Command Center today (April 2) outlined projec­tions related to the anticipated surge of COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth, which they believe will come between April 10-20.

The projections are the result of the Command Center’s work with medical experts to complete modeling of the out­break in Massachusetts. The Administration also detailed its efforts to respond to this surge, including a significant increase in hospital capacity, staffing, and equipment.

COVID-19 Surge Planning:

•Modeling and Projections:

The Administration’s COVID-19 Response Command Center has been working with its Advisory Board of medical experts and epidemiologists from Harvard University, University of Guelph and Northeastern University to refine models related to the expected surge of COVID-19 cases. These efforts include mod­eling the surge’s timing, number of cases, necessary bed capacity, and work to find facilities that will meet overfill capacity. The mod­el’s projections are based on the experience of Wuhan, China, but Massachusetts’ trajectory could differ due to lower population density, lower smoking rates, and earlier social distancing measures. The Command Center has also been comparing to experience in other states and around the world.

The model’s latest projec­tions estimate that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Massachusetts could range from 47,000 to 172,000 (or 0.7% to 2.5% of the total population of Massachusetts). The mod­els show hospitalizations would potentially peak between April 10-20. The current fatality rate in Massachusetts is lower than other areas – it is approximately 1.5 percent of those infected. The Command Center is monitoring this statistic closely.

The COVID-19 Response Command Center is working with hospitals to provide them with flexibility to expand ICU capacity. The Commonwealth is asking aca­demic medical centers and teach­ing hospitals to work to signifi­cantly expand their ICU capacity. But after hospitals execute on their surge plans, the model estimates there could be a remaining gap in ICU capacity of more than 500 beds.

•Response Efforts:

In response, the Administration is aiming to find or build an addi­tional 750 – 1,000 beds in field medical hospitals and other alter­nate care sites to reduce strain on hospitals as much as possible. Gov. Baker and Lt. Gov. Polito visited the first of these Field Medical Stations at the DCU Center yes­terday.

The Administration has iden­tified additional possible sites for Field Medical Stations includ­ing the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Joint Base Cape Cod, Springfield’s Mass Mutual Building and other small­er locations. The Administration has secured a contractor who can build out sites once a healthcare partner has been finalized.

The Command Center is also securing 1,000 beds in capaci­ty forstep-down care options in nursing facilitiesfor stabilized COVID-19 positive patients who can be transferred out of the hos­pital to make room for those with higher medical need.

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