Reason for "cautious optimism" says Houston Methodist CEO

As thousands of health care heroes report for action day after day in the struggle against coronavirus COVID-19, the leader of the Methodist Hospital system says the Houston-area trends amid this lethal contagion appear to be heading in the right direction.

“Thankfully over the last couple of days we are seeing some cautiously optimistic signs that we may be leveling off on that. We are not ready to say that for sure yet, but we are seeing some reason for cautious optimism. I interpret that as social distancing is working, so it is doing what we wanted it to do and this makes our curve, hopefully more manageable,” said Dr. Marc Boom, President and CEO of Houston Methodist.

And yet Dr. Boom cautions against a premature lifting of the very stay-at-home order he credits for local containment efforts that have thus far kept the casualty count low when compared to epicenters like New York City.

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“For that to work, we are going to need to be well over the top of the curve. What I mean by that is we are still a week or two out in most models from peaking. We can’t release too soon right at the peak. If we do, we will have way more people in the population with the disease than we did when we put the restrictions in the first place and we will have a far greater second peak. We are going to have to get way over to the other end of the curve before we start very carefully, judiciously loosening some of the restrictions,” said Boom.

In the meantime, challenge breeds innovation.

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Within the critical care units at Methodist, Boom has deployed cutting edge “intubation boxes” and “mobile protective shielding” – allowing nurses and doctors to treat COVID-19 patients behind a spray-proof barrier and thus drastically reducing the chance those delivering care will become infected.

“I’ve watched the power of creative minds get together and say, we will tackle this problem we will get in front of it. We will get together an intubation box we will put together mobile shields. We will start and be the first hospital in the country to do convalescent serum. It’s really rewarding, frankly to watch when those great minds get together and do it all for the benefit of the patients,” said Boom.

The hard numbers – Methodist system-wide has 323 ICU beds with the capacity to surge to 800. As of Tuesday afternoon, 90 of those critical care slots were serving COVID-19 patients.

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