Texas Medical Center will start reopening to the public thoughtfully and gradually, Baylor College of Medicine SVP says

HOUSTON – The Texas Medical Center hospitals will start to reopen sections that were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic thoughtfully and gradually, a Baylor College of Medicine Senior Vice President said. Dr. James McDeavitt described what he said are “three stages to this crisis.”

The first was the careful rush to prepare for the worst-case scenario.

"Everybody was terrified we were going to become New York or Lombardi, Italy," said McDeavitt. "There was a real effort to empty out the hospitals, cancel elective procedures, create capacity in the hospitals in the event that we had a major catastrophe."

The second challenge, or potential crisis, was the "major catastrophe" he described, which didn't materialize.

"It was the real fear that we would overwhelm our health system that we wouldn't have enough ventilators for patients, and thankfully we never got there," McDeavitt said. "That was largely due to the population of Houston really took social distancing seriously and flattened the curve."

The third challenge is about to take place: the gradual reopening of Texas Medical Center facilities, and how to do that safely, he said.

"We can't flip a switch," McDeavitt said. "We're going to think about how we thoughtfully and gradually reintroduce volume into our system. That's probably going to come in proportions, much like the governor suggested."

"We'll open up by increasing our face-to-face volumes by 25 percent, give it a couple of weeks, make sure we're doing OK, and add another 25 percent," he added. "It'll probably take us a month to six weeks to fully ramp up, and that's assuming that the virus behaves itself."

McDeavitt and other health experts urge everyone to keep practicing social distancing guidelines with the possibility for the long-term.

"We're going to have to learn how to do social distancing in a sustainable way," McDeavitt said. "We're going to have to learn how to do this in a way that we can survive into the fall, perhaps into next year, maybe longer…until we get effective treatment or an effective vaccine."

He said people should also get used to telemedicine, which he said is here to stay.

“Doctors love it. The patients love it. They actually like us better in some cases on video than they do in person,” McDeavitt said. “It’s been a real positive out of this whole thing.”

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