San Francisco has a 'plan in place' if hospitals get overwhelmed and run out of beds for coronavirus patients, Mayor London Breed says


San Francisco Mayor London Breed (C) speaks during a press conference as San Francisco police chief William Scott (L) and San Francisco Department of Public Health director Dr. Grant Colfax (R) look on at San Francisco City Hall on March 16, 2020 in San Francisco, California. San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a shelter in place order for residents in San Francisco until April 7. The order will allow people to leave their homes to do essential tasks such as grocery shopping and pet walking.

  • San Francisco has drawn up contingency plans to increase the number of hospital beds in the city in case they’re needed due to the coronavirus outbreak, Mayor London Breed said.
  • While she declined to discuss the plans in detail, she said the city is working with local hospitals to determine the number of available beds and how many could be made available quickly.
  • One of the biggest worries about the coronavirus is that a sharp increase in the number of those affected by it could overwhelm hospitals’ capacity to care for them; that exact scenario happened in Italy.
  • Breed has criticized federal officials for the lack of kits that can test for the virus, and said that while the situation is improving, San Francisco still needs more kits.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

San Francisco has plans in place in case the rapidly growing coronavirus epidemic overwhelms the city’s hospitals, Mayor London Breed told Business Insider in an interview Thursday. 

City officials have worked with representatives of San Francisco’s hospitals to develop contingency plans in case the demand for hospital beds exceeds existing availability, Breed said. She declined, however, to provide any details on what the city’s strategy would be.

Officials “have taken stock in the inventory in terms of what we have available and readily available.  We’re going to be able to increase our capacity,” Breed said. “We’re not prepared to talk about that publicly until it’s actually needed, but there is a plan in place.”

The number of diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in San Francisco jumped on Thursday to 70 from 51 the day before. There are now some 463 cases in the Bay Area as a whole, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

One of the biggest concerns about the pandemic is that a sharp spike in cases could overwhelm healthcare systems. That’s what happened in Italy, where doctors were forced into triage mode, prioritizing young and relatively healthy patients over elderly ones, because they couldn’t treat all the cases at once.

In Seattle, which has been one of the epicenters of the outbreak in the US, health officials have started building makeshift field hospitals to increase the number of available beds.

San Francisco has more testing kits but still not enough

Earlier this week, San Francisco and other nearby counties ordered most residents to shelter-in-place and mandated the closure of most offices, storefronts, and other businesses to try to curtail the spread of the outbreak. 

San Francisco officials have been coordinating with California Pacific Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente, and the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, to develop their own plans, Breed said. The city has a good idea now how many beds are available or could be made available quickly, she said.

“We’re going to be able to increase our capacity,” Breed said.

Part of the problem San Francisco and other US communities have faced in combatting the coronavirus outbreak has been a lack of kits that can test for the disease. The tests are needed to determine not just who has the disease but how far it has spread in the community, and who it is affecting. 

Earlier this month, Breed called the dearth of kits “a national disgrace.”

The situation has improved since then, she said. UCSF, Kaiser, and other city hospitals have test kits available and can test those who meet the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC is now recommending that people get tested if they have symptoms of respiratory illness, such as a cough or fever. City hospitals can also test people if they’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive, Breed said.

But the supply of kits is still not adequate to do testing on demand, she said.

“We definitely need more,” Breed said.

In the interview, Breed also warned that the shelter-in-place orders could be extended past their current end-date of April 7, depending on the status of the outbreak and people’s compliance with it.

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SEE ALSO: San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is losing $300,000 a day since the ‘shelter in place’ began directing residents to stay home to contain the coronavirus

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