Coronavirus Health professional meet with Minn. lawmakers

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Could it happen here?

Metro area hospitals are now preparing for the what-ifs, of a possible coronavirus outbreak.

"This virus, if it has a chance to spread in a community, it can do so, quite quickly," Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said. "It is the goal to increase testing, very broadly, as across the country."

The numbers are sobering.

New deaths in California and Washington brought Wednesday’s death toll in the U.S. to 11.

In Minnesota, there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus, but authorities are awaiting results from eight tests.

Meanwhile, two University of Minnesota students, back from Europe, are in self-quarantine, after having contact with an infected person.

What the process for COVID-19 testing looks like

"We expect to care for approximately 15% of coronavirus patients, who will likely need hospital-level care," says Rahul Koranne, the president and CEO of the Minnesota Hospital Association. "Five percent of patients who will likely need to be treated in an intensive care unit, or ICU."

Koranne says its members are preparing for ‘a surge’ of patients who are potentially infected.

He was among a group of health care experts who are pleading with state lawmakers to approve $25-million in emergency funding to deal with the COVID-19 threat.

The proposal would also include $10 million for the state health department.

Stay up to date on coronavirus news here

"Our hospitals and health systems will play a central role in response to an outbreak," Koranne says.

He says a breakdown of available coronavirus services in the Twin Cities would include:

  • 5000 acute-care beds
  • 500 intensive care beds
  • 450 ventilators or breathing devices

Some hospitals have been preparing for emergencies like this for years.

In 2017, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS was given permission to document St. Cloud Hospital staffers practicing for an Ebola outbreak.

Such drills allow hospital staff to test their skills in a simulated emergency environment.

While Minnesota lawmakers are considering the additional funding, help appears to be on the way from the federal government.

The House of Representatives Wednesday approved an $8.3 billion emergency funding bill to deal with COVID-19.

The Senate is expected to approve the bill on Thursday.

Meanwhile, there’s growing concern about the nationwide shortage of personal protection equipment, or PPE’s for short, for health care workers.

Adequate supplies of items like surgical masks, gowns, and rubber gloves are considered essential for safety.

"We want to ensure that our nurses, physicians, and core teams have PPE’s to keep them safe," Koranne says. "Updating scarce supplies including personal protection is critically important to our health care staff who are going to be caring for these patients."