COVID-19 Update: Still Lots of Idle Hospital Capacity

Another day has gone by, Virginia hospitals still have abundant spare capacity to treat COVID-19 patients, and Governor Ralph Northam’s emergency decree against elective surgery continues to drain hospitals of revenue, cost healthcare workers their jobs, and delay many Virginians’ access to healthcare.

The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals (both confirmed and awaiting tests) crept up by six over the day before to 1,405, according to today’s Virginia Hospital and Healthcare data dashboard. Hospitals still have 5,353 beds to spare.

Meanwhile the number of patients in ICU units declined by 22, and the number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators nudged up only three. The total of ventilators in use by all patients numbers 629, leaving 2,306 ventilators idle.

When Northam announced the one-week extension, the primary justification he gave was to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE) that doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers need to guard against infection by the virus. According to the VHHA dashboard, however, only three of Virginia’s hospitals reported an expectation of experiencing difficulty of replenishing their PPEs over the next three days.

Northam’s blanket decree applies uniformly across the state regardless of the prevalence of the virus or the capacity of hospitals to deal with it. The Roanoke Valley is not Arlington. Here’s the latest data from the Virginia Department of Health website:

A policy that might make sense for Arlington is insanely inappropriate for the Roanoke Valley (City of Roanoke, County of Roanoke, City of Salem), which has approximately the same population. If Northam’s purpose is to bankrupt Roanoke Valley healthcare providers — the Carilion Clinic and the LewisGale Hospital — by cutting off their revenue flow, he is making solid progress. If his goal is reducing deaths from the COVID-19 virus, it is difficult to discern how his elective-procedure edict might improve the situation in any way.