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Hospital ERs Brace For Potential Spike In Critical Coronavirus Cases As Testing Ramps Up

Premier Health rolled out testing for COVID-19 this morning at the UD Arena parking lot.
Leila Goldstein
Premier Health rolled out testing for COVID-19 this morning at the UD Arena parking lot.

Hospital emergency rooms are planning for a potential spike in demand as the number of confirmed Coronavirus cases rises across the Miami Valley. Health officials say they’ll open additional emergency room beds within hours if more space is needed to handle a rapid increase in patients.

Miami Valley Hospital emergency physician Randy Marriott, EMS Medical director for Premier Health, says there’s a critical need for more masks, respirators and other special equipment to protect medical staff and keep hospitals safe and operational throughout the Coronavirus crisis.

"Having the appropriate personal protective equipment, or PPE, particularly respiratory protection, powered air-purifying respirators, having that equipment on hand, having it distributed correctly, having the correct people be trained and have access to it, that equipment has been one of the one of the biggest challenges." he says. "Those supplies are in tremendous short supply [nationwide] and that's a real urgent need throughout the state as well."

Premier EMS Medical Director Randy Marriott, MD.
Premier EMS Medical Director Randy Marriott, MD.

Marriott says the hospital's emergency staff has been drilling for a Miami Valley Coronavirus outbreak for nearly two months as the public health emergency has spread across the globe, in addition to the health network's typical emergency preparedness training exercises.

Part of the training includes planning for the unknown: projected emergency patient demand.

With Gov. Mike DeWine's orders for Ohioans to maintain social distance, the shutdown of schools and non-essential businesses across the state, and the cancellation of elective procedures, Marriott says the health care system is stable for now.

“We really do not know exactly how this will unfold. Nobody does. We now know we have positives in our immediate area. But we're treating all undifferentiated or undiagnosed respiratory issues as potentially being COVID so we’re being very cautious.”

Health officials urge anyone who may be experiencing symptoms not to show up at an emergency room. Instead, they recommend contacting a primary care doctor. Or calling the Coronavirus hotline.

In Ohio, that number is 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.

Read more about the state of Ohio's response to Coronavirus at the Department of Health website.  

Drive-through testing for the Coronavirus disease COVID-19 began Tuesday at the University of Dayton Arena.

As testing ramps up medical officials are prioritizing patients with symptoms.

Premier Health officials say they’re following the latest guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in prioritizing symptomatic patients first.

Symptoms of the Coronavirus disease COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath and could  appear up to two weeks after exposure.

As the outbreak escalates, health officials say it’s especially important to test patients with symptoms first and connect them with treatment as soon as possible.

In Dayton, tests are available every day at the UD Arena parking lot between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Anyone who comes to the site without a doctor's order may be turned away. And, people without symptoms may not be tested even with a doctor’s authorization.  

Copyright 2021 WYSO. To see more, visit .

Jess Mador comes to WYSO from Knoxville NPR-station WUOT, where she created an interactive multimedia health storytelling project called TruckBeat, one of 15 projects around the country participating in AIR's Localore: #Finding Americainitiative. Before TruckBeat, Jess was an independent public radio journalist based in Minneapolis. She’s also worked as a staff reporter and producer at Minnesota Public Radio in the Twin Cities, and produced audio, video and web stories for a variety of other news outlets, including NPR News, APM, and PBS television stations. She has a Master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. She loves making documentaries and telling stories at the intersection of journalism, digital and social media.