As Long Beach prepares to deal with the ongoing spread of coronavirus, concerns mount over how many patients the city’s hospitals would be able to handle as the pandemic worsens.
“The City is actively engaged with our healthcare providers, and we are preparing for any needs that the community may have moving forward,” Chelsey Finegan, of the City’s Joint Information Center’s All Hazards Incident Management Team, said.
There are 1,800 patient beds currently in Long Beach, a city of over 467,000, according to 2018 census data. For every 260 Long Beach residents, there is one hospital bed, and for every 1,000 residents there are approximately 3.84 patient beds available.
All Long Beach hospitals have medical surge plans which provide contingencies if capacity is reached, Finegan told the Signal Tribune.
Long Beach has more hospital capacity on average than the state and the nation. While there is only an average of 2.4 patient beds available for every 1000 residents in the United States, according to a study by QuoteWizard after analyzing data gathered by the Kaiser Family Foundation, and 1.82 for every 1000 Californians, that number jumps to 3.84 in Long Beach.
With the low numbers of patient beds compared to the state and nation’s population size, officials have issued stay at home orders and social distancing regulations in order to “flatten the curve” of the spreading disease. This refers to taking measures to slow the spread so the total number of infections happen over a longer period of time, in order to keep the healthcare system from being overwhelmed by too many cases at once. When healthcare workers aren’t overwhelmed by a sudden surge in coronavirus patients, they will be better equipped to treat the patients in their care.
To help keep local hospitals from becoming overwhelmed during the pandemic, the hospital ship USNS Mercy arrived at the Port of Los Angeles on Friday, March 27 to begin receiving non-coronavirus cases, allowing local healthcare workers to focus on treating coronavirus patients. President Donald Trump has also extended the federal social distancing guidelines to April 30.
The city has had one fatal coronavirus related case, a woman in her 50s with pre-existing health conditions, according to Mayor Robert Garcia’s email newsletter. There are currently 106 positive cases of coronavirus in Long Beach, 5,739 in the state and 140,904 in the United States, according to the City’s website.
“Due to limited testing capacity the number of individuals with COVID-19 is likely much higher,” Garcia said. “If you want to help us stop the emergency that could face our hospitals in the weeks ahead, we need you to stay home if possible and social distance.”