As Cases Rise, UMass Memorial Sets Up New All-COVID Hospital Unit

The director of critical care called it "pretty significant that we have to open up another unit"

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COVID hospitalizations in Worcester have nearly quadrupled since the beginning of July, and the city says this is the third consecutive week of increases in the number of new cases here.

"It's definitely concerning," UMass Memorial Medical Center Director of Critical Care Michelle O'Rourke said.

With the trends heading in the wrong direction, UMass Memorial Healthcare is now converting the entire 20-bed floor on West-1 of its Memorial Campus into an all-COVID unit.

"It is pretty significant that we have to open up another unit. We were all, you know, after wave two, sort of breathing a sigh of relief because the numbers were going down, people were getting vaccinated," O'Rourke said.

The delta variant of COVID-19 is as infectious as chickenpox, the CDC says.

But with vaccination rates slowing significantly since then and the delta variant spreading, O'Rourke said, it became necessary to create a unit where the COVID population could be segregated from other patients and hospital staff.

"We can create a negative airflow, so it protects caregivers and others from getting the virus," O'Rourke said.

Ernesto Santiago of Worcester said, "It seems like they want to be better prepared."

"We really need these beds, because I feel like, if another epidemic should really come and hit us hard, it's going to be really rough this time," said Alfredo Maldonado, another Worcester resident.

People around the city were glad to see the hospital being proactive.

"I think this whole pandemic thing is not over yet, absolutely not," said Wendy Howe.

"When the winter comes, you're going to have the delta [variant], then you're going to have the flu, you're going to have some serious issues," said Ali Abdul-Muhaiman, "and that's why I'm grateful for UMass doing what they're doing."

UMass has also dedicated a nine-bed area on its University Campus for COVID patients needing specialty care.

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