Health secretary: Virginia has nearly 2K ICU beds, 400 ventilator units

Posted at 12:45 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 17:39:12-04

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia has nearly 2,000 intensive care unit beds for possible use in the COVID-19 pandemic as cases in the Commonwealth continue to increase, state officials said in a briefing Wednesday.

Dr. Daniel Carey, Virginia’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, said the Commonwealth has nearly 2,000 ICU beds statewide.

“Those beds have access to ventilator and respiratory support equipment in the event that an individual patient requires that level of medical care and intervention,” Carey noted.

Additionally, Carey said the six regional healthcare coalition's that function under the Virginia Healthcare Emergency Management Program (VHEMP) has 400 ventilator units that can be deployed to hospitals.

“Beyond that capacity that Strategic National Stockpiles, have stores of medical equipment, including ventilators, that can be called upon to address emergent public health situations,” Carey said. “And as
needed, health care providers work with private ventilator vendors to supplement existing medical equipment inventories.”

Officials did not specify how many of the ventilators are currently being used.

Gov. Ralph Northam said that as a former army doctor, he knows what it is like be in a “crisis situation with finite resources.”

“I want to assure Virginians that we are working closely with our hospitals to help make sure they get the resources that they need to be able to take care of those Virginians that require them and that are sick,” Northam said.

Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver said there are 77 cases COVID-19 cases as of 11 a.m., up from 67 cases on the day before. The state is also investigating three outbreaks, which is defined as two or more cases that can be traced to a common exposure.

"I should also report that we have currently 65 tests. They're in the process of being run at the state lab," Oliver said. "There are probably tests as well being run by [private labs], so there will be other cases that will develop or be confirmed during the day."

COVID-19 Precautions

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

Virginia health officials offered the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid non-essential travel.