The Yale New Haven Health System held a press teleconference Thursday with Covid updates. Dr. Tom Balcezak, chief medical officer for the system, said he checks Covid updates every morning and that current numbers are in “stark contrast” to those at the height of the pandemic.
“Since late winter, beginning of spring, we tracked with New York City, which was an obvious a hot spot,” he recalled. “We’ve all committed to memory April 21 when we had 800 Covid positive patients in our health system.”
Balcezak said Greenwich Hospital, Bridgeport Hospital and Yale New Haven Hospital effectively became Covid hospitals.
As of Thursday morning there were 18 Covid positive patients across the entire system, which includes Greenwich, Bridgeport, Yale New Haven, Lawrence + Memorial in New London and Westerly Hospital in Rhode Island.
Greenwich Hospital was treating just two Covid patients on Thursday.
There were 13 Covid positive patients at Yale New Haven Hospital compared to 400+ back on April 3.
During the last month, the system fluctuated from as low as 10 Covid patients, up to the mid 20s.
“It’s the law of small numbers – that makes it look like big percentage swings,” he explained, adding that while there are a number of colleges and universities in New Haven and Bridgeport, he has not seem a dramatically younger population among new Covid cases.
“We’re fully aware there could be a second wave,” Balcezak added.
To date the health system has tested almost 200,000. Today 95% of results come back within 24 hours.
To date the system has discharged over 3,600 Covid patients, and the system goes many days without a Covid related mortality.
Hospital inpatients are prioritized for testing, and the testing is also being used to support nursing homes, including the Grimes Center, which the system operates.
Per the State Office of Early Childhood guidance, effective Sept 21, all children 3 years of age and older will be required to wear masks in childcare programs.
Dr. Balcezak said children can get the virus and can spread it between one another and to adults.
“The risk is relatively low, but not zero,” he said, adding that many children adapt well to mask wearing.
“It’s important for us to keep this virus from spreading to any part of our population. I think the mask order will be difficult for many individuals, but any improvement in mask wearing is an improvement for source control,” he said. “The perfect can’t be the enemy of good.”
The health system has been financial impacted by the pandemic. Marna Borgstrom, CEO of Yale New Haven Health, said a lot of money was spent creating intensive care capacity, adding negative pressure rooms and buying PPE.
Along the way, the system virtually eliminated elective hospital visits for about three months.
The combination of those factors resulted in an operating loss for the year across the system.
Borgstrom said the system received some federal CARES Act funding, but she was not optimistic about receiving additional funding, given spikes in Covid in other parts of the country, fires on the west coast and floods in Florida.
“There will be a lot of demand. Everyone is standing in line and saying we want some,” she said.
Borgstrom said the system expects it will lose in excess $450 million overall, though a piece of that will be offset by the impact of the CARES Act for about $320 million, for a $70-100 million net loss.
She said the financial impacts may effect plans for the Neurosciences Center in New Haven and the new Smilow Care Center in Greenwich.
“Nobody is willing to loan us capital if they don’t think we can repay it, and if you’re in an operating loss situation, that at one time we hope will be understood given Covid.”
Balcezak said it is possible to self-schedule an appointment for a Covid test at one of the Yale New Haven Helath System on their website: covidtesting2.ynhhs.org.
“A cornerstone of prevention is going to be testing symptomatic individuals and getting results rapidly and isolating them,” he said, adding that the system is using its blood draw locations to conduct testing.