The feds have agreed to ship at least 1,000 ventilators to Massachusetts and state officials begin to clear out some nursing homes for recovering Covid-19 patients who still need nursing care but not intensive hospital attention, Gov. Charlie Baker said today.
At his daily press briefing, Baker said that current state projections show the peak demand on hospital resources from coronavirus patients could hit Massachusetts between April 7 and April 17. The University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which has been monitoring Covid-19 and hospital resources nationwide, is currently pegging April 14 as the anticipated Massachusetts peak.
Baker said he was heartened when federal officials told him that the state would be getting at least 1,000 ventilators from a national stockpile by next week, which he said would make a big difference in caring for the state's sickest Covid-19 patients.
But Baker cautioned that he'll believe it when he sees them, because these days, "you don't have a confirmed order until it actually shows up."
Baker said a contract with the Beaumont Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center in Worcester, with 300 some beds, marks the first of several such deals with skilled nursing facilities to move out current patients so they can be transformed into Covid-19-specific facilities and that he's looking to create space for at least 1,000 patients statewide. He said it's unfortunate current patients have to be moved, but said that dedicated Covid-19 recovery buildings will help to minimize the risks of vulnerable seniors getting infected. The alternative, he said, would be requiring current nursing homes to set aside beds for Covid-19 patients, which would be far riskier.
Baker added the state is looking to sign contracts with existing nursing homes, rather than trying to equip unused buildings, because the nursing homes already have staff, equipment and contracts for food and other necessities in place.
Baker added that although he has yet to rule out sterner measures, such as shutting parks or hunting down people from states with high infection rates, he says that social distancing and people staying at home so far seems to be helping. He pointed to all the photos everybody's now seen of deserted streets and downtowns and said that even in parks where people are going, people seem to be mostly staying at least six feet away from other people.
"I think people need to go outside," for mental-health reasons alone, he said.
The governor had a request for people who will be eligible for federal unemployment benefits who are not currently eligible for state benefits: Stay off the state unemployment Web site, because it's not currently enabled to handle their signups. He said state officials are still awaiting specific technical instructions from the federal government on how to enroll people and vowed that the instant the state has that information and can reprogram its application site, it will alert residents.