Coronavirus California: Here's a look at CA's COVID-19 hospital readiness

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As the number of COVID-19 positive patients increases, the need for more hospital beds to treat the sickest of those patients does as well.

COVID-19 is testing and stretching California's healthcare system to its limits.

An ABC7 News I-TEAM analysis found that if 1.2% of the Bay Area population has COVID-19 at one time and 15% of those people are hospitalized, local hospitals could run out of beds.

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According to state data, The Bay Area has less than 2 hospital beds per 1,000 people. San Mateo, Sonoma & Contra Costa Counties have even less, just 1.4 hospital beds per 1,000 people. Compare that to Italy, a country that has more than 3 beds per 1,000 people and still whose hospitals were overrun when coronavirus infection rates reached their peak.

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The numbers alone do not paint a positive picture, but California's Hospital Association President & CEO, Carmela Coyle is urging people to look past the numbers and trust California's healthcare system will be flex based on needs.

"Hospitals will have the opportunity to reshape that capacity as needed and we most certainly will be doing that to address this emergency," said Coyle.

Here's how according to Coyle, elective surgeries can be canceled, acute care beds can be transformed into intensive care unit beds; motels and hotels can be used as well as surgery centers and previously unused hospitals can be brought back into the mix.

There's also the possibility of federal resources like the USNS Mercy, a hospital ship.

"The prospect of bringing the US Navy to bear and supporting the acquisition of the Mercy here off the coast of the state of California which would provide an additional 1-thousand bed capacity," said Governor Newsom in a press conference Wednesday.

Beyond beds, the healthcare system has other needs.

"We do expect we will have shortages of the respirator masks, some of the surgical masks and others and we are working right now with the state on solutions to fill some of those gaps," said Coyle.

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Perhaps most importantly, keeping healthcare workers healthy.

Coyle says the healthcare system cannot quarantine every medical professional who has contact with another medical professional who tests positive for the virus.

"If each time there is someone who is COVID positive and we have to send 100 healthcare workers home for that patient we will have no healthcare workforce," said Coyle.

Highlighting the delicate balance of having a healthcare system that functions while also protecting healthcare workers and patients.

To maintain the number of health care professionals needed, Coyle says they are currently looking at bringing retired doctors and nurses back to service and even dentists and others who have health care training.

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