Worcester's 3-Pronged Coronavirus Plan Is Ready for Action

The approach is meant to prevent an anticipated surge in cases from overwhelming the health care system

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“This is a sneaky, nasty disease,” UMass Memorial Healthcare CEO Dr. Eric Dickson said Wednesday.

As hospitals like UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester brace themselves for the predicted surge in COVID-19 cases across the commonwealth over the next couple of weeks, the emergency plans they’ve put in place over the past month are now ready to be executed.

“ICU for sickest patients, DCU for those that are least sick and can get up and move around and take a shower -- which you can do at the DCU, something you can’t do in the hospital,” Dickson said. “And for those that are recovering, they’ll go to Beaumont.”

Dickson said the DCU Center, which opens as a field hospital Thursday, will have six ICU beds in case anyone there decompensates and needs a ventilator, he said.

“We’re hoping not to take more than 10-20 patients over the weekend just so we can work through all the kinks,” said Dickson, “but if needed we’ll be able to take up to 214 patients there.”

As Massachusetts announced 33 more coronavirus-related deaths, Gov. Charlie Baker toured the state's first field hospital dedicated to the virus.

Dickson said the three-pronged approach now established in Worcester gives them the flexibility to triage patients, so the anticipated surge in cases coming to Massachusetts doesn’t overwhelm the health care system.

UMass is also simultaneously part of the effort to find a treatment for the most severe patients, beyond IV and oxygen therapy.

“We’ve got a couple clinical trials going on right now to try to find out which drugs may or may not be effective in treating this disease,” said Dickson, “but right now there is no proven therapy beyond good, supportive care.”

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