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Worries about hospital capacity drive COVID-19 response

Posted: 5:51 PM, Mar 12, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-12 19:27:35-04
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — With COVID-19, health officials are no longer talking about stopping the spread of the disease.

Now, they're just hoping to slow it down.

One of the big concern is: a potential shortage of hospital beds.

Hospital capacity is a big issue right here in Middle Tennessee and around the country.

Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey told reporters Thursday that the efforts are designed to take the dramatic spike in cases and "flatten the curve."

"That's a phrase that you are likely to hear more about and that deals with slowing the number of cases in order to reduce the strain on our hospitals, health care resources and allow our communities more time to prepare," Piercey said.

At Vanderbilt, the hospital is converting a parking garage into an emergency screening area for people who think they may have the coronavirus.

Patients will be diverted there from the emergency room.

According to the Sycamore Institute, in Davidson County, there's just one staffed hospital bed for every 212 residents.

Down in Murfreesboro, it's one for every 641 people - and up in Clarksville, it's a thousand-to-one ratio.

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But it gets worse.

In Williamson County, it's 1,223 residents for each bed and 2,132 in Wilson County.

In Cheatham County, there are well over 3,000 people for every hospital bed there.

Twenty counties have no hospital at all.

The good news, health experts say, is most people will not need to be hospitalized.

Still, the lower they can keep those numbers, the better we all will be.