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New Orleans hospitals say they're ready for COVID-19 and are working to stay that way

“The storm’s coming in ... so we need to be preparing.”

NEW ORLEANS — There are 7,485 hospital beds, including intensive care, in the Metro New Orleans Area.

Does that put us in a good place, given the growing number of COVID-19 cases?

“Well, yes and no.” Dr. Joseph Kanter, regional medical director for the Louisiana Department of Health, said. “We’re in good shape at the moment.”

Kanter says that’s the key phrase: At the moment.

“Now, we know what’s coming,” he said. “The storm’s coming in. See the clouds, see the weather report, so we need to be preparing.”

COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, which leads to breathing problems for some people. That’s why Kanter says the state is hoping to get more ventilators. Currently, Louisiana has 923 across the state.

“You have to have ventilators, because this is a respiratory disease and many people die by way of respiratory failure,” Dr. Kanter said.

The White House on Tuesday said it’s in the process of trying to get 2,000 more ventilators out across the country soon.

“And we are working with federal partners to make those available,” Kanter said. “And we’re going to need more healthcare personnel.”

At University Medical Center, crews were busy building new tents outside of the emergency room doors to screen people seeking medical help before they go inside.

Hospital staff say they’re confident they have enough space right now, but will keep looking for space and supplies.

“The hospital currently has adequate supplies,” Dr. Peter DeBlieux said. “We’re always looking for ways to expand our resources to meet the needs of the community.

But in a situation that changes by the hour, ongoing preparation is key. Kanter says the state is doing what it can to make sure they have enough ventilators, but the big thing they’re looking at right now is additional testing.

“The worst-case scenario is that people get very sick and we don’t have hospital personnel and rooms to care for them,” Kanter said.

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