Bracing for the worst: Kaweah Delta preps for potential surge in COVID-19 patients


Right now, Kaweah Delta is just above 50% occupancy

VISALIA, California (KSEE) — The novel coronavirus pandemic has yet to overwhelm Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia, but staff has been preparing for when it might.

In a press conference Friday, the hospital’s CEO said he fully expects the situation to escalate.

As of 9 a.m. Friday, Kaweah Delta reported of the 895 swabs its submitted for testing, 48 have tested positive for the virus. Of those patients, only five are still being treated at the hospital.

Four of those patients have been put on ventilators in the ICU. Kaweah Delta’s CEO Gary Herbst said with only around 50 ventilators left, orders have been made for more. Those orders have yet to be filled.

“Generally, those larger communities that are being more hit severely right now are where most of the ventilator supplies are going to,” Herbst said.

On its website, the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency now has a map showing where the confirmed patients are from by zip code. The zip codes in Visalia’s immediate area — 93291, 93292, and 93277 — have the majority of cases at 38.

To deal with a possible surge, the hospital now has dedicated 40 beds in two units specifically for COVID-19 patients. With the help of the state, two new floors in Kaweah Delta’s Acequia Wing will bring dozens more beds online next week.

But, in the case all of that gets filled up, Herbst said city leaders like Mayor Bob Link and city manager Randy Groom have already offered up the Visalia Convention Center.

“They said if you need to take over the convention center, you’re going to be at the top of our list,” Herbst said. “[They add] obviously so many events have been canceled now, it’s quite available.”

In case even more beds are needed, Herbst said he’s been in talks with Valley Children’s Hospital to move Kaweah Delta’s pediatric and NICU patients there.

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