Newsom Is ‘Confident’ About The State’s Supply Of Ventilators, Hospital Beds

As the total number of coronavirus cases in California topped 16,000, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday he is confident the state is building up its number of ventilators, hospital beds and workforce to meet the demand of a still-to-come surge in patients that he projects won’t peak until May.

Newsom is so confident, in fact, that he announced the state was donating 500 ventilators to the Strategic National Stockpile to deploy in states that need them more, like New York, which has already received ventilators from Oregon, Washington and from China.

“We feel confident in our capacity to meet our needs as we support the needs of others,” Newsom said, adding that the ventilators are being “lent” and could be recalled if necessary down the road.

The generosity comes in the weeks after California — and other states — launched massive efforts to stockpile medical supplies and personal protective equipment to prepare before a surge of coronavirus patients overwhelmed the Golden State’s hospitals. California’s clout and partnerships with tech companies and other manufacturers have helped it amass supplies while its early adoption of stay-home orders has so far pushed back the expected crush of patients that New York and New Jersey are now experiencing.

“We can do certain things to punch above our weight,” Newsom said during a news conference inside the Sleep Train Arena, the former home of the NBA Sacramento Kings, one of more than a dozen facilities around the state being converted into overflow hospitals. “And we carry a big weight, but to the extent that other Americans need our support, our largesse, and to the extent that we have the resources, we’re going to be there for as many people as we possibly can.”

Even when supplies are available for purchase, the federal government sometimes intervenes and has them redistributed to areas of high need. For example, Kaiser was supposed receive a shipment of much-needed supplies before the federal government sent it elsewhere.

“Where the federal government finds they need to go to the supplier directly and take some of the resources, whether it belongs to us, it’s part of trying to make sure areas of the country in significant need receive resources, so that’s something that’s happening,”  Smita Rouillard, associate executive director of The Permanente Medical Group at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, confirmed in an interview Monday.

Despite Newsom’s reassurance, the U.S. reached a grim milestone on Monday, as the country’s coronavirus death toll passed 10,000, according to data from John Hopkins University.

As of Monday evening, California had recorded 16,309 positive COVID-19 tests — a 46% increase since Friday, and 387 deaths, according to data compiled by this news organization.

Santa Clara County public health officials reported that 1,224 people have tested positive and the county’s death toll has reached 42 — double what it was 10 days ago. Alameda County has recorded a total of 590 confirmed cases and 13 deaths, San Francisco has 583 cases and nine deaths, San Mateo County has 579 cases and 13 deaths and Contra Costa County has 417 cases and seven deaths.

But the Bay Area’s hospitals have still not experienced an anticipated surge in coronavirus patients, and it’s unclear when that might happen. Some of the forecasting models that the governor’s office rely on are now showing earlier dates for hospitalizations to peak in the Golden State, which don’t match what Newsom forecast on Monday.

For example, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation now anticipates that California will reach its peak use of resources — total beds, ICU beds and ventilators — on April 14. That’s almost two weeks earlier than what it forecast a week ago, based on a larger sampling of data and lower ratios of hospital admissions to deaths.

The good news: Given the state’s current resources, that model predicts that California will have a surplus of all the necessary resources to meet the surge in coronavirus patients.

Newsom and his team of health professionals repeated on Monday they are still preparing for the state to reach its capacity of permanent hospital beds — 50,000 — in mid-May.

His office did not immediately respond to questions on Monday about the discrepancies between the state’s timeline and the new University of Washington projections.

John E. Swartzberg, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of California Berkeley, said his “best guess” was that the Bay Area will see peaks in hospital patients in about two and a half weeks — or toward the end of April. But he admitted, no one can be certain.

“This is like blind people feeling an elephant,” Swartzberg said in an email to this news organization. “Everyone feels a part and describes the elephant differently.

“There is nothing wrong with the modeling; the problem is the poor data that we feed it.”

During a news conference on Monday, Newsom said that the number of people hospitalized due to coronavirus had increased 4.9% overnight to 2,509 and the number of patients in ICU beds has increased by 4.3% to 1,085.

But so far, the state has room for more. There are 7,345 ICU beds in California, of which 1,498 are in the Bay Area, according to a recent analysis by Kaiser Health News.

Newsom has declared a goal of identifying 50,000 additional hospital beds to complement the 70,000 licensed beds that already exist. The state has asked hospitals to identify 30,000 beds that could be repurposed to serve a surge in COVID-19 patients and is working with partners to find another 20,000.

And the rush to add more medical equipment to face a surge is continuing. The state has increased its number of ventilators from about 7,600 to more than 11,000 in recent weeks. It has also secured 4,316 additional hospital beds — a fourth of the overall goal — by transforming the Kings’ former arena and the Santa Clara Convention Center into temporary medical facilities for acute patients and taking over Seton Hospital in Daly City.


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