- New York City has become a major hotspot of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Overall, the state accounts for half the cases in the US, making it a center of the pandemic.
- Dr. Patrick Borgen, the chair of surgery at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, is looking at the spread of the novel coronavirus on the cruise ship Diamond Princess to understand how the virus may spread in the densely packed borough.
- The hospital is almost doubling the amount of beds it has and converting a surgery center into an intensive care unit to face the increasing number of cases.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Even with efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, New York City has quickly become a hotspot.
As of March 24, the city had a total of 15,597 confirmed cases and 192 deaths.
New York City is the most densely populated area in the country. That makes it harder for residents to avoid catching the virus by limiting contact with others.
“Even social distancing is much more difficult in a place like Brooklyn,” Dr. Patrick Borgen, the chair of surgery at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood, told Business Insider. “Projecting what the trajectory of this pandemic is going to be in Brooklyn is very difficult.”
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Lessons of disease spread from the Diamond Princess cruise
In particular, Borgen said, the hospital is taking its cues on how the virus might spread in a densely populated area from the example set by the Diamond Princess cruise ship. The ship in early February reported 10 coronavirus cases and ended up with more than 700 by the end of a two-week quarantine.
Of the 3,711 Diamond Princess cruise passengers and crew, 712 tested positive for coronavirus. According to a report released in March by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 37 people needed intensive care and 9 died.
In particular, the cruise ship taught Borgen and the team at Maimonides how easily transmissible the virus was. It also highlighted the large population of people who might not show symptoms of the virus. Of those who tested positive, almost half didn’t have symptoms at the time they were tested.
“That’s the most frightening thing about this right now,” Borgen said. “We just don’t know who all is infected.”
Adding hospital beds and converting surgery centers into ICUs
Cases are mounting in Brooklyn. As of Tuesday, the borough had about 4,400, or 28% of the city’s total. To prepare for the expected increase, Maimonides is almost doubling the number of beds it has.
“We are anticipating continued surge for the foreseeable future,” Borgen said. “We’re having to aim pretty far down the line.”
On a given day, Maimonides has about 720 hospital beds. It’s aiming to have 1,000 beds by adding on tent space, a floor of a connected nursing facility, and by using the beds in its cancer center. It’s also converting a surgery center into intensive care unit beds.
Borgen, the director of the breast cancer program at the hospital, said that the hospital has been delaying surgeries for cancer patients, instead opting to give them medication first with the hopes that by the time surgery is needed, hospitals will be back to doing procedures.
Including plans to put patients in its surgery center, Maimonides will have 1,400 beds, almost double the number of beds it typically operates.
For now, Borgen said, the hospital has the space it needs. What he’s planning for is next week. The height of the pandemic in New York City isn’t expected for another few weeks.
The hospital is also taking cues from other providers that have started getting creative with how they’re using equipment, such as setting up one ventilator for two patients.
“We’re having to think outside the box as this thing grows,” Borgen said.
Do you work at a hospital in New York? Business Insider would like to hear what you’re seeing on the front lines of the coronavirus response. Email the author at email@example.com.