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Fresno County’s equipment needs to combat the coronavirus hinge on how well residents help flatten the curve, a county public health official says.

“Based on the worst-case scenario kind of modeling, we’re definitely going to need more than what we have.” — Dr. Rais Vohra, interim Fresno County health officer

In addition, local hospitals are thinking hard about how they can expand capacity within their own facilities, said Dr. Rais Vohra, interim Fresno County health officer. In some cases, they’ve been able to figure out ways to handle more patients with the available equipment, he said.

As part of the re-tooling for potential needs, the county points to the field hospital to be installed at the Fresno Convention Center. The location will be a 250-bed alternate care site to help alleviate the strain on hospitals in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state of California has also chosen the Porterville Developmental Center, with a maximum capacity of 246 beds, as another nearby facility to accommodate overflow patients.

“Based on the worst-case scenario kind of modeling. We’re definitely going to need more than what we have,” Vohra said about local equipment needs during a Monday teleconference.

Third Fresno County Death Reported Tuesday

The Fresno County Health Department announced the death of a third county resident Tuesday afternoon. No details about the deceased were released.

The county also reported a rise of 22 positive tests, bringing the total to 146. The breakdown of the positive cases is:

  • 36 Travel-Related
  • 25 Close-Contact / Person-to-Person
  • 37 Community-Spread / Unknown Source
  • 48 Under-Investigation

Many Ventilators Already in Use

Many of the Fresno area ventilators are already in use because of critically ill patients not related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re asking all of our hospitals to do a very close inventory, and then to stay in close communication with us as we work with the state to plan out and to model our response,” Vohra said. “We have approximately 100 to 150 ventilators in the county region. And those really do change, day to day, in terms of how many are available for patient use.”

ICU Bed Situation

Vohra also voiced concerns Monday about what could happen if the curve doesn’t flatten fast enough.

He believes the county could ultimately need “several hundred more beds and ventilators, which is a source of consternation.”

Added Vohra, “Because if we do get a surge … as we’re seeing in some communities in the U.S., we’re going to be very challenged in providing the top-level care for these critically ill patients.”

California Ventilator Supply

California has been hunting for ventilators to boost its own supply for weeks. Officials requested 10,000 ventilators from the national stockpile, though it has received none. Los Angeles got 170 ventilators from the stockpile, though many were broken. The state has roughly 4,200 ventilators in addition to the hospitals’ tally. California expects to hit its peak of cases in mid-May.

Virgin Orbit, billionaire Richard Branson’s company that makes rockets, has developed a prototype for a “bridge ventilator” designed to help patients breathe until they can be put on a traditional ventilator.

Virgin Orbit, billionaire Richard Branson’s company that makes rockets, has developed a prototype for a “bridge ventilator” designed to help patients breathe until they can be put on a traditional ventilator. The company is awaiting federal approval before it can begin mass-producing the model, which was developed in partnership with researchers at the University of California, Irvine.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday the nation’s most populous state would share some of its ventilators, a necessary tool to keep struggling patients breathing, with the national stockpile even as it hunts for more of its own supplies. Newsom suggested that New York may be one of the states to receive the ventilators, but he said the federal government was best poised to decide where they were needed most.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)

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