Sentara predicts coronavirus peak in mid-May

Posted at 2:46 PM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 18:31:41-04

NORFOLK, Va. - Hampton Roads should expect its coronavirus peak to be in mid-May, according to Sentara Healthcare President and CEO Howard Kern.

Kern made the comments during a call Friday afternoon with Sen. Mark Warner, who wanted to hear from local leaders about how the federal government can help.

"We are taking advantage of this time frame to really get prepared for that," said Kern.

Kern is worried about the availability of supplies around that time. "Our peak is coming well after most of the peak for the rest of the country, especially the major metropolitan areas. We have a real concern about what supply availability is going to be left," he said.

He said Sentara is looking overseas for supplies, but finding the costs to be extremely high. He said he's not sure why the president hasn't used the Defense Production Act to compel more companies to help with supplies.

Sen. Warner responded the federal government is looking for supplies overseas as well. He also expects companies here to ramp up production.

"If we're looking at mid-May for Hampton Roads, my hope is domestic production activity will be in full production mode," said Sen. Warner.

Sentara is also getting help from engineers at Old Dominion University in designing ventilators, said Kern. They're also developing back-up plans just in case.

Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander told Warner he's worried about the economic fallout with the tourism industry taking a big hit and major events, like Harborfest, already canceled.

"What I'm asking - a direct injection of funds to localities - could be necessary to allow a reasonable level of service that we provide to continue," said Alexander.

Warner said help is on the way for local governments. In addition, stimulus checks should be arriving in the coming weeks, but Warner says the next stretch will be tough.

"I think we're all going to be tested in terms of how we get through this," said Warner. "I do have faith in Virginia and faith our country that we'll get through it, but it's going to be a remarkably challenging time."

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