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Summit County Public Health, hospitals prepare for possible coronavirus surge

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Posted at 5:02 PM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 20:24:40-04

AKRON, Ohio — Chris Barker, the emergency preparedness supervisor for Summit County Public Health, said local hospitals will be ramped up and ready for a potential coronavirus surge until projections indicate times are changing.

Barker said that means hospitals are increasing their capacity and finding more spaces to add beds in case those are needed.

"Our target goal is increasing by two times their capacity and I know there are facilities that are way above that," Barker said. "Our plan is to plan big and scale down, so if we plan at a higher level than what's probably needed, then we have those capabilities. We have the capacity to meet the need and then we can scale down accordingly."

On Tuesday, Summit County reported the number of positive COVID-19 cases rose to 200 with 12 deaths. Health officials continue to monitor four nursing homes in the county. Two of those, including Rockynol Ohio Living in Akron, have confirmed coronavirus clusters, according to health officials.

Dr. David Custodio, president of Summa Health System, is closely watching a timeline for the expected surge.

"If you listen to Dr. (Amy) Acton and the Ohio Department of Health, it should be coming in the next seven to 10 days," Custodio said.

He stressed dealing with the uncertainty of the crisis involves much more than available space, adding that staffing and supplies will also be critical.

Custodio believes there will be enough personal protective equipment to keep crucial hospital workers safe and he's hoping there will not be a large number of patients hospitalized.

"The reality is this is just the start and this is likely going to continue for a period of time, so even though we haven't had a huge surge at this point, it will likely occur."

The University of Akron is offering up to nine residence halls-- with up to 2,400 beds-- that could be used to house healthcare workers and first responders or patients.

"It could be for symptomatic patients that we put them in a separate residence hall if the EMA chose to do that, and in some cases, maybe its patient overflow from the hospitals, if required," said Nathan Mortimer, the vice president of operations at the university.

Barker said while preps continue around the clock, he's also the community to stay vigilant. He said it's critical for people to stay at home whenever possible while also practicing good hygiene and social distancing.

"It's making an impact and we still have to to continue to practice these measures because it is working."