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News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida can help. Our responsibility is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

Hotels Could Be Used For Medical Surge, Says Executive At Broward's Memorial Healthcare

The first U.S. case of COVID-19 was treated at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington. Robin Addison, a nurse there, demonstrates how she wears a respirator helmet with a face shield intended to prevent infection.
Ted S. Warren
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

South Florida is a coronavirus hotspot in the state. The majority of confirmed cases in Florida are in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

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The number of cases is expected to climb as testing efforts expand across the region.

Health care facilities are preparing for the worst-case scenario: a medical surge that could overwhelm bed space inside hospitals. Some facilities are looking into other buildings and spaces that could be used to care for a large wave of COVID-19 patients.

On the South Florida Roundup, host Tom Hudson spoke with Dr. Stanley Marks, chief medical officer at Memorial Healthcare System in Broward County, about COVID-19 preparation efforts.

Here's an excerpt of their conversation:

TOM HUDSON: The surge, we're seeing some of these systems in Queens, New York, for instance. Certainly we've seen them in the Milan area in Italy about patients having to be triaged and treated in makeshift, almost MASH-like units, right? Almost like mobile hospital-like units. Are those plans on the table? Is that something that should be executed in South Florida, if necessary? And what are some of the tipping points?

STANLEY MARKS:Yeah, absolutely. I think every facility needs to have a surge plan and an expansion corridor or an expansion plan to deal with a very large volume of patients that potentially can come into your hospital. One needs to have plans to be able to expand into non-clinical areas to be able to supply additional rooms and space for patients, who hopefully aren't critical, but can manage non-critical types of patients.

Additionally, we've put into place not only those sorts of expansion corridors at every one of our hospitals, but we have the ability to create these specialized tents that look very much like MASH units, the mobile military forms of hospitals that were formed in tents. These can be set up fairly rapidly, generally within a day, and can house almost any kind of patient. We have plans not only to move into our conference space, but also to establish some of these tent facilities in the ground floor of some of our garage spaces.

HUDSON: What about other public facilities that may be empty? I'm thinking of convention centers, for instance, or even private facilities like hotels. Are those within the realm of consideration?

Absolutely. As a matter of fact, some of our team is actually today [Friday] at a hotel site. I can't disclose it at this point in time. But I will tell you that a fairly large hotel and group has offered us an ability to use their space, their ballrooms and the like.

HUDSON: Can you give us a little bit more about that? Give us a sense of where those conversations sit in the possibility of executing on that kind of plan.

We actually have our team of facilities and building personnel looking at some of those properties to understand what they look like, the ability to hook up equipment, the ability to feed staff as well as patients -- and potentially use these areas, whether as quarantine sites or as sites to be used for low levels of care. These would be conversations that we're having that would be related to patients. There are also some conversations related to perhaps housing some of our personnel that might feel that because of potential exposure, they don't want to go back home to their families until they're absolutely cleared.

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Alexander Gonzalez is a recent graduate of the University of Miami. He majored in English and was the the editor-in-chief of The Miami Hurricane newspaper from 2014-15. He was WLRN's digital intern during summer 2015. He subscribes to too many podcasts and can't get away from covering the arts in Miami.
In a journalism career covering news from high global finance to neighborhood infrastructure, Tom Hudson is the Vice President of News and Special Correspondent for WLRN. He hosts and produces the Sunshine Economy and anchors the Florida Roundup in addition to leading the organization's news engagement strategy.