Echoing remarks made over the past few days by Govs. Ned Lamont of Connecticut and Andrew Cuomo of New York that there are signs the rate of coronavirus infections appears to be slowing, Yale New Haven Health System (YNHHS) CEO Marna Borgstrom said this morning that while various models differ, “the arc of the curve (of positive cases) is slowing down and tailing off.”
As a result, she said, while predictions are still that Connecticut’s peak will take place over the next 10 to 15 days, “it is improving.”
The rate of increase in COVID-19 positive patients at YNHH hospitals has decreased since it began tracking the data last month from 15% to 16% each day a few weeks ago to 10% to 12% last week, she said. Today’s rate was “more around 7%.”
Still, she cautioned, “This is not a sprint – it’s a marathon.”
Joining Borgstrom on this morning’s conference call was Greenwich Hospital President and CEO Norman Roth, who noted that his facility recorded its first positive patient on March 14. Today Greenwich – particularly hard hit by the virus due to its proximity to New York state – has 107 active COVID-19 patients, 24 of whom are in ICU, all but two on ventilators. To date, the hospital has recorded 16 deaths.
But, Roth noted, Greenwich has also discharged 117 patients – 67 in the last week – to their homes or “step-down” facilities, where they can receive intermediate care and rehabilitation; in total, YNHHS has discharged around 250 people. Yesterday, Lamont indicated that the state could start including information about discharged COVID-19 patients as early as tomorrow.
A little over 60% of the 117 patients reside in eastern Westchester County, comparable to the roughly 54% that Greenwich normally sees, Roth added.
Systemwide, YNHHS has completed about 13,000 tests – slightly less than half of the state’s 26,686 total – with about 3,060 positive results, Borgstrom said. As of this morning, the system – which in addition to Greenwich includes Bridgeport Hospital – had 602 inpatients with the virus, 157 of them at Bridgeport. YNHHS hospitals have recorded a total of 53 deaths.
While Greenwich has only 207 beds, Roth noted that by sending its pediatric in-patients to Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, reducing its maternity wing from 34 to 19 beds, and freeing up beds at its Holly Hill campus, it has increased capacity to 294.
“We are maintaining a good staff-to-patient ratio,” Roth said, although the scarcity of PPE (personal protective equipment) remains a concern, as it does nationwide. Greenwich now has 27 ventilators not being used, he said, including seven received yesterday from the state. Borgstrom said that, systemwide, YNHHS has 113 patients on ventilators, and has taken 44 off of them for step-down care or discharge.
Roughly 60 Greenwich Hospital staffers have tested positive, Roth said, noting that some of those originally infected are already returning to work.
YNHHS Chief Clinical Officer Tom Balcezak said the system is improving in the number of tests and timing of results as time goes on, “but we’re not close to where we want it to be.”
As for PPE, he said the supply of N95 masks remain the greatest concern. While last week the system was using about 1,395 masks per day, over the last few days it has been using 3,095 a day due to the increase of patients. Balcezak noted that the system can reprocess many of the used masks every day using a hydrogen peroxide vapor.
But while the masks typically sold for 60 cents apiece pre-pandemic, open-market demand now has them selling for around $6 piece, “if we’re able to find them,” Balcezak said.
“Right now we have adequate supplies,” he added.
All three executives expressed hope that Connecticut’s peak will be a gradual one; otherwise, Balcezak said, “our resources will be outstretched.”
Borgstrom – who along with Nuvance Health President and CEO Dr. John Murphy and Hartford HealthCare President and CEO Jeffrey Flaks were named co-chairs of the governor’s Health System Response Team on March 30 – said the hospitals are all working together to share resources and address potential shortages. The strategy is to shift staff and equipment as cases here ease and start to increase north and east, she said.