This is an historic time for the world, as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic ravages hundreds of thousands of people from nearly every continent on the planet. Governments have issued shelter-in-place warnings, restricted social gatherings and strongly encouraged frequent handwashing, social distancing and mandated reductions to in-office employment. As the world seemingly pauses to “flatten the curve,” the hospital systems are ramping up to handle the influx of COVID-19 patients.

Johns Hopkins University and Medicine has a live map of COVID-19 positive cases. As of March 24, 2020, there have been 410,000 documented cases of COVID-19 globally and 18,300 related deaths.

A data analysis by USA Today in early March found that America’s coronavirus trajectory was trending towards similar numbers to the dire state of Italy where there have been nearly 70,000 recorded coronavirus cases and 6,800 deaths to date. One projection estimated as many as 214 million people in the United States may be infected with coronavirus over the course of the epidemic with as many as 20 million required hospitalizations. The United States, according to the American Hospital Association, has 924,000 hospital beds, of which 98,000 can be used for intensive care. There’s a clear gap in anticipated demand and available beds.

New York currently has more than 25,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of March 24, which is higher than any other state in the country. Governor Andrew Cuomo has mandated hospitals increase their bed capacity by 50% with an intent to mandate 100% bed capacity at all facilities. He has also called on the National Guard and building developers to convert existing facilities – dormitories and former nursing homes, for example – into makeshift hospitals to add 9,000 beds for future patients with COVID-19.  

What Is Needed to Convert Buildings for Hospital Use?

When converting buildings into isolation rooms to help stage patients, many aspects need to be looked at including air supply, exhaust systems, pressurization and controls, power generation and filtration.

Proper heating and cooling units need to be checked, upgraded if needed and commissioned to ensure steady air flow, patient comfort and proper ventilation filtration systems so infected airborne particles do not spread through the ventilation systems to other rooms and parts of the building.

Facilities are designating entire units for COVID-19 patients to limit exposure to other floor units. The number of air changers per hour depend on treatment type. A regular patient room has 6 air changes per hour to circulate the air in the room. In an isolation room, where many patients with COVID-19 will be admitted for treatment, a minimum of 12 air changes for hour is needed. The air in these rooms are filtered through high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to prevent airborne spread.

While the Center for Disease Control, does not require automatic placement in an AIIR room, a patient should be housed in the same room for the duration of hospital stay with limited exposure outside of their patient room. For patients undergoing aerosol-generating procedures, however, AIIR rooms should be used.

Stark Tech Group’s Cleanroom Solutions Group offers a wide range of technologies that can support temporary hospital units and the demand needed to increase hospital bed capacity at operational facilities over the coming months.

One product line offered, Healthway’s Disinfecting Filtration System (DFS), removes germs from the air, beyond typical HEPA-rated filters. The coronavirus is said to pass through filters at 0.0902 microns. The product line mentioned can retrofit with any HVAC system for 99.99% filtration efficiency, down to 0.007 microns.

Small scale and large scale surges in demand for beds are being planned including, converting rooms to negative pressure rooms, which supports patients on mechanical ventilation machines as a lifesaving procedure. Negative-pressure ventilation reduces incidences of severe complications.  Stark Tech Group’s U&S Services can accommodate the switch by programming controls in the facility to switch from positive to negative pressurization.

The role of integration teams and equipment distributors will play a critical role in the speed to which these changes need to be implemented. For more information or for support in converting buildings to temporary hospitals, please call us at 716.693.4490.

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