HARTFORD, CT – State officials and hospital executives are in the process of figuring out where to house an expected surge of COVID-19 patients over the next few weeks.
The number of confirmed cases in Connecticut has risen to 2,571 Monday with 578 new positive tests, and 517 patients were hospitalized. Two more people died bringing the death toll to 36.
There are at least 20 nursing home patients who have tested positive for COVID-19. The state has seen nine deaths at two long-term care facilities; three of those deaths were at the Evergreen Health Care Center in Stafford Springs, and the other six were at Benchmark Senior Living at Ridgefield Crossings, which is an assisted-living facility.
The vulnerable elderly population who are infected will likely be moved from their nursing homes and placed in a previously shuttered nursing home or an unused wing of a nursing home with other patients who also have the virus, according to Gov. Ned Lamont.
Lamont has said repeatedly that he wants to prevent a situation similar to Kirkland, Washington, where 37 people died at one nursing home.
“They can be petri dishes in terms of transmission of the virus,” Lamont said. “We were very careful, very early on. No visitation there.”
Lamont said the good news is that there’s capacity in the nursing home system and “empty wings where we can move people if they have to be quarantined.” He said there are also a number of nursing homes that could reopen with minimal work to house those with COVID-19.
The state, according to Matthew Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, the nursing homes are waiting for the Department of Social Services to approve the rates and locations to move patients. Evergreen Health Care Center in Stafford Springs has agreed to become a location for COVID-19 positive patients. The other locations have yet to be disclosed.
Dr. John Murphy, CEO of Nuvance Health, said all of the hospitals are trying to figure out when the surge might hit and how much capacity they have in their system to take care of COVID-19 patients and all the other patients who need hospitalization.
He said the virus is coming into the state at different places and at different times so they can collaborate and make more space across all hospital systems to the extent that there is “untapped capacity.”
Marna Borgstrom, president and CEO of Yale New Haven Health, said people are going to continue to have coronaries and cancer patients are going to have to continue their radiation and chemotherapy so “we have to make sure we’re here for the people who have always needed us.”
In the meantime, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has scouted out locations like the Connecticut Convention Center and the convention center at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville to set up a field hospital.
Lamont said the state also has planned for 250 beds at the field house at Southern Connecticut State University, the O’Neill Center at Western Connecticut State University, and the Tully Center in Stamford.
Borgstrom said YNHH has emptied out the top three floors of the Smilow Cancer Hospital to make room for COVID-19 patients because they’re all “negative pressure rooms.”
Lamont said Connecticut did receive a small amount of personal protective equipment like more than 100,000 masks and 106,000 gloves Monday from the federal government. However, the 50 ventilators they promised were initially re-routed, but he didn’t know where. Shortly after Lamont’s press conference, President Donald Trump said from the White House Rose Garden that the 50 ventilators were headed to Connecticut.
Murphy said ventilators will help keep someone alive, but if you’re 80 years old or older, the mortality rate is around 17%.
Jeffrey Flaks, president and CEO of Hartford Healthcare, said they continue to scour the globe for personal protective equipment for their staff. He said Ford Motor Company sent them 1,000 face shields unsolicited Sunday and it was very much appreciated.
Local companies are doing what they can, too.
He said Okay Industries in New Britain are standing up an assembly line to create face shields for Hartford Healthcare.
Some healthcare workers have described the current situation as going to work in a “war zone.”
Murphy said he wouldn’t describe the hospital setting as a “war zone” but he said it’s a “stressful, complex ever-changing environment.”