Update April 1, 10:02 a.m.: TFHS has confirmed the number of ventilators they currently have in stock is nine, plus “three that are on their way to us,” wrote Paige Thomason, marketing and communications director, in an email to Moonshine Ink.
The U.S. has officially topped the world in total cases of COVID-19, with the Centers for Disease Control currently reporting that nationwide there are 85,356 confirmed cases, including 1,246 deaths. This surpasses, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, “China’s tally of more than 81,700 and Italy’s count of more than 80,500.”
As of this writing, California’s total stands at 4,202 cases, including 85 deaths. The Tahoe Forest Health System is preparing for possible future cases in the Tahoe/Truckee area, and we wanted to know specifics. Harry Weis, TFHS CEO, answered our questions about capacity, like just how many hospital beds we’re working with (currently 25, expanded to 36) in the region, below.
(We’ll use our initials, MI for Moonshine Ink and HW for Harry Weis, here on out. For live rolling updates on cases, government action, and effects on the region, see our coverage.)
MI: Let’s say a local resident shows definite symptoms for the novel coronavirus. What steps should be taken to notify the hospital?
HW: Any local, concerned person should call our hotline, which operates 7 days a week, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., (530) 582-3450. After hours, if they are feeling ill with fever, cough and/or shortness of breath, or other health concerns, they should visit our emergency department. Also, please thoroughly read our website: tfhd.com
MI: How severe do someone’s symptoms have to be before they’re tested?
HW: The CDC provides guidelines all hospitals across America are following. To be tested, it does require a physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner order. Again, if any person is concerned, please call our hotline noted above.
MI: How does that testing process work, and what’s the current timeline to receive results?
HW: We use a special swab to swab a nostril and then this swab is carefully packaged and it’s sent off to an approved testing lab. We have several testing labs we send specimens to. Generally, the results will come in approximately four to seven days.
MI: How many positive cases of COVID-19 are currently being treated at the hospital? Do you see that increasing dramatically in the coming weeks?
HW: We currently have no positive COVID lab test result inpatients in the hospital as of this moment. But that could change at any time in the future.
MI: How many beds does the Tahoe Forest Health System have, and how many more can be added if there’s a local surge of cases?
HW: We are licensed for 25 acute inpatient beds. We have expanded our capacity at this time to handle a total of 36 patients. We have plans in place to go slightly higher if needed. Presently, our census have been below average due to avoiding elective procedures on patients.
MI: Does that include ICU beds?
HW: Yes, the numbers above include ICU.
MI: Are any of those beds already occupied with COVID-19 patients?
HW: No, not at this time.
MI: How many people is the TFHS preparing to test or treat in the next 30 days? How many tests have already occurred through TFHS total (including negatives)?
HW: We are preparing for a surge as noted in #5 above. We have performed many tests and we don’t disclose how many tests we’ve performed. We do have 14 positive COVID-19 lab test results [at] this moment, and those patients come from several counties.
MI: Does the TFHS have local partners it can turn to if space reaches capacity?
HW: We are working very cooperatively with four other area hospitals in our region. This regional collaboration helps out on many fronts during this national emergency.
MI: Are any methods being considered to expand or speed up testing capabilities?
HW: We are looking at all reasonable options to acquire our own FDA-approved lab equipment to speed up test results. This goal is very difficult at this time due to a high demand for approved lab equipment.
MI: What about healthcare workers at the hospital, are they holding up okay? What are the primary systems in place to ensure the safety of healthcare professionals?
HW: We have an amazing team who loves this region! They are holding up well. We are working hard to keep all team members safe. We are following CDC guidelines for our own team members and for the public.