Rhode Island facilities moving COVID-19 patients to field hospital to free up beds

The head of the largest health network in Rhode Island said Wednesday that some coronavirus patients have been moved to a field hospital due to facilities reaching capacity.

“We have plenty of ICU capacity. We have plenty of ventilator capacity. However, our regular med surge beds are full,” Timothy Babineau, CEO of the health care system Lifespan, told CNBC.

Babineau said that some patients have been moved to the Rhode Island Convention Center, which currently has almost 600 beds. The patients being moved are not critically ill, according to CNBC.

“As of yesterday, we’re already transporting patients from the main campuses to the field hospital,” he said. “Unfortunately, Rhode Island is headed in the wrong direction.”

Rhode Island has recorded nearly 58,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 1,400 deaths due to the virus. According to the COVID Tracking Project, Rhode Island is experiencing record high hospitalizations.

More than 400 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized and hospitalizations are up 21 percent more than what they were two weeks ago.

A two-week pause on Rhode Island’s reopening went into effect on Monday in response to hospitals reaching capacity.

“One of our biggest concerns, one of our biggest priorities, is adequate staffing and making sure that our staff are protected, that they have what they need. That’s going to be probably the biggest challenge for the next couple weeks,” Babineau told CNBC.

Early in November, nearly a thousand Mayo Clinic staffers in Minnesota were reported to have contracted the coronavirus in a two-week period resulting in shortages. In North Dakota. Gov. Doug Burgum (R) announced that asymptomatic health care workers who test positive for COVID-19 would be allowed to continue working due to extreme staff shortages.

Hospitalizations are rising in 26 other counties, CNBC reports, another sign of the worsening new surge of COVID-19 cases. Experts warned earlier in the year that coronavirus cases would rise as temperatures fell, pushing people to spend more time indoors.

Government officials have stated that the first round of coronavirus vaccines could be available to health care workers and high-risk individuals by the middle of December. Pfizer and Moderna have applied for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. On Wednesday, the U.K. approved Pfizer’s vaccine, becoming the first Western country to do so.

Health experts fear the recent spate of Thanksgiving travel could result in more cases as airports saw the highest number of passengers pass through since March. During a new briefing on Wednesday, the CDC reiterated its warning against holiday travel, urging people to not travel for Christmas.

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