Jamestown Regional Medical Center has developed plans to more than double the number of patient beds in the hospital in the event of high numbers of COVID-19 cases in the area, said Mike Delfs, president and CEO of the hospital.

Delfs told a press briefing Tuesday at Jamestown City Hall that the hospital's plans allow it to expand from its 25-bed critical care capacity to 65 beds in the event of a surge of COVID-19 cases.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.

"First we would fill the regular beds with the COVID (-19) cases separated from any regular patients in the hospital," he said. "Then, if there is a need, the cases could spill over into the surgery center and utilize beds that are normally used for post-surgery patients."

As of Monday, JRMC had postponed all elective surgeries until after concerns for the spread of the coronavirus have passed, Delfs said.

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If the available beds in the surgery center are filled, COVID-19 patients would be cared for in the oncology center. If more capacity is still needed, patients would be housed two to a room in the main hospital with COVID-19 patients placed in rooms with other COVID-19 patients, Delfs said.

Hospital staff would work in teams with each team caring for a group of patients. Areas for staff to stay at the hospital are also being planned.

"Our staff would need a place to shower and sleep through this," Delfs said.

The plans continue in anticipation of a disease that still has not been detected in the area, according to Robin Iszler, director of Central Valley Health District.

Iszler said nearly 50 tests for the coronavirus have been performed in the Jamestown area with 17 done by JRMC and the remainder by other medical providers. While results are pending on some tests, no positive test results have been reported.

One of the preparations Central Valley Health is working on is to fit first responders and medical professionals with respirator masks. These masks are fitted to the individual's face and stop outside air from reaching the person's nose and mouth except through the filtration system.

Andrew Berkey, EMS operations manager for Jamestown Area Ambulance Service, said ambulance crews would likely wear the respirator masks to any calls involving a patient with respiratory problems.

Other speakers at the press briefing included Scott Edinger, Jamestown chief of police, who said calls for service, which are incidents where a member of the public has called for a police officer, have actually declined during the time the community has been involved with precautions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

"The help from the public is appreciated," he said.

Dan Cramer, regional director of the South Central Human Service Center, said his facility remains open although it is also now providing therapy and counseling by phone.

The coronavirus causes some unique challenges for the people facing mental health and addiction problems treated by the human service center.

"Distancing from people is the exact opposite of what we tell people with depression and other mental health issues to do," he said.

Iszler said the precautions of frequent hand washing and staying at least 6 feet away from other people are still the best practices for people to utilize for avoiding exposure to the coronavirus.

"Continue the social distancing," she said. "This will get worse."