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COVID cases rise, Renown prepares

Published: Nov. 11, 2020 at 5:33 PM PST|Updated: Nov. 13, 2020 at 11:12 AM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The most visible evidence of the danger the coronavirus is posing in the weeks ahead may be the return of a triage tent outside the emergency care entrance at Renown Regional Medical Center. The tent was set up for a time last spring to screen emergency patients and now with numbers of COVID cases rising at an alarming rate, it’s going back up.

But the best indication of the hospital’s concern lies elsewhere on the campus.

Last spring looking ahead and anticipating the worst, the hospital considered what it might do if the pandemic threatened to overwhelm its capacity. After considering other sites around town it settled on its own parking garage.

Ten million dollars and barely a week later, it had converted the first floor of the garage to a fully functional 700 bed ward, fully equipped including a medical grade negative pressure air filtration system. With that done, the infrastructure of the second floor was also prepared just in case it would be needed.

At the time, the hospital said it hoped all this would prove unnecessary. Success would be that our community had handled the virus, kept ourselves safe and the area’s existing medical facilities able to handle things.

That expectation may prove untrue in the immediate future and the alternate care site could be used in the days ahead.

The number of available beds changes daily, but the numbers are moving in a concerning direction.

“We’re seeing an absolute increase in the number of patients presenting with COVID or COVID-like symptoms that require hospitalization," says Dr. Paul Sierzenski, Chief Medical Officer for Renown’s acute care unit, "which is why we’re preparing this area should we need it.”

This former parking garage floor could offer care for 700 hundred of the least critical patients. The floor above, 700 more.

They still hope that won’t be necessary, but say that’s up to the community they serve and whether we follow recommended guidelines--masks, social distancing, hand washing and, most of all staying home when possible, in the weeks ahead.

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