Illinois could need 38K more beds if virus isn’t contained

Coronavirus Watch

The Illinois National Guard operates a COVID-19 drive-thru test site for medical personnel and first responders Tuesday, March 24, 2020 in Chicago. Mayor Lori Lightfoot says the city plans to reserve thousands of hotel rooms for people with mild cases of the coronavirus and others unable to return to their homes while awaiting test results. Lightfoot announced Monday that the city has partnered with five hotels and will have 1,000 rooms available by Tuesday.(Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois would have to double the number of available hospital beds in the next two weeks to treat COVID-19 patients if the coronavirus is not contained amid a pandemic that has claimed 16 lives in the state, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday.

The state would need almost 38,000 additional hospital beds, including more than 9,000 in intensive-care units, by April 6, in a worst-case scenario, the Democrat said at his daily briefing. And nearly 5,000 ventilators would be in demand — more than double what’s available in the state.

But Pritzker said efforts to tame the potentially deadly virus, such as his order to close non-essential businesses and keep people from leaving their homes unnecessarily, should temper those numbers. Despite the fiscal hardships, he said he opposed President Donald Trump’s suggestion that such social-distancing practices be lifted soon to spare the U.S. economy.

“We can revive our economy,” Pritzker said. “We can’t revive the people that are lost to this virus.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced 250 new cases of the respiratory ailment, a 19% jump from a day earlier, to a total of 1,535. Officials reported four additional deaths Tuesday.

Illinois can now process 600 tests daily in four state-run laboratories, up from 50 a day one month ago. Drive-thru, mobile and retail-store testing sites will produce hundreds more and commercial facilities are expanding capacity to 4,300 a day, Pritzker said.

But the rapidly spreading illness has outrun containment by testing alone, the governor said.

“We are beyond the moment where testing alone can be our primary weapon against this virus,” Pritzker said. “We can’t just test, we have to treat.”

More than half of the state’s 28,600 hospital beds are occupied, officials said. About 30% of the 2,200 ventilators is in use.

Fog lifts over Chicago and the usually busy Columbus Drive, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, on the second work day since Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker gave a shelter in place order last week due to the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

In a worst-case scenario, public health officials said that by Monday, the state would need an additional 3,300 beds and 400 ventilators. Just a week after that, the need would grow to 37,600 additional beds, of which 9,400 would have to be ICU, and 4,700 ventilators.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency has sent tents to hospitals to serve as triage centers at 66 of the state’s 200 hospitals for evaluating potential COVID-19 patients. Officials from IEMA, the National Guard and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers are investigating closed hospitals that could be temporarily re-opened.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced on Monday a plan to reserve thousands of hotel rooms for patients with mild cases of COVID-19.

And Pritzker said that his weekend call for retired medical professionals to step up yielded 180 online applications.

Pritzker reported that after speaking to Trump Monday, the White House told the public health department that the state would receive 300 ventilators and 300,000 protective face masks in the coming days.

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(This story was originally published on March 25, 2020)

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