Falls Church Kaiser Expects to Meet Demand as Virus Heads Toward Peak

KAISER PERMANENTE offers drive-up Covid-19 testing at its Tysons (above) and Woodbridge locations. (Courtesy Photo)

A medical director for Kaiser Permanente estimates its Falls Church center will have enough beds, supplies, and staff to meet the demands of Covid-19 patients as Virginia heads towards its peak of the crisis.

Dr. Amy Banulis, Kaiser’s regional associate medical director for women’s and maternal/child health, told the News-Press in an email that “our equipment and supply needs have increased significantly and so have our efforts. We are rapidly planning to ensure that we understand and can respond to the anticipated patient surge.

“We continue to secure additional supplies through traditional as well as innovative means, such as making face shields and working with small businesses in the garment industry to begin making masks for Kaiser Permanente, and we are carefully managing supply access in each of our facilities,” Banulis said.

She wrote the staff remains focused on its mission, and since Kaiser has enough medical personnel to handle projected needs, it has no plans to add more.

Earlier this month, Kaiser had adequate personal protective equipment such as masks, gowns, and gloves to protect its staff but was monitoring the supply to use items only “when medically indicated” to ensure enough is available when needed.

Limited drive-through testing sites have been set up at several mid-Atlantic Kaiser centers, and its Tysons Corner and Woodbridge facilities are testing Kaiser members who have appointments and a doctor’s orders, following current guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The increased precautions associated with the novel coronavirus have also changed Kaiser Permanente’s visitor policy.

When necessary, one person may accompany those with appointments as long as the accompanying person is not showing Covid-19 symptoms including dry cough, trouble breathing, sneezing, fever and/or flu-like symptoms.

Anyone suspected of having the disease or who may have been exposed to it is asked to call or email the doctor before an appointment so arrangements may be made, including protection of others.

Like most healthcare centers, Kaiser has severely curtailed personal medical visits, 85 percent today which are “virtual” and conducted by telephone, email or video.

Banulis said Kaiser Permanente is accepting new members and has expanded its “telehealth services” to accommodate needs.

Over the past week, the Fairfax County Health Department has reported a sharp increase in the number of virus cases in its district which includes the City of Falls Church, City of Fairfax, Fairfax County and its towns.

In the last week, the number of Covid-19 cases in the health district has risen by more than 77 percent, from 1,298 last Wednesday, April 15, to 2,306 reported yesterday. Fairfax is also reporting 68 virus-linked deaths — including one in the City of Falls Church — more than triple the number from a week ago.

As of Wednesday, projections from University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation show tomorrow, April 24, as the peak for daily deaths in Virginia with 26. Experts have cautioned though, that the projections are fluid and change from day to day.

According to the IHME model, the easing of social distancing practices with containment strategies that include testing, contact tracing, isolation, and limiting gathering size may be possible in the state after June 5. The institute reports national demand for hospital services is expected to exceed supply, but recent numbers show social distancing is working.

IHME director Dr. Christopher Murray cautions that, “the trajectory of the pandemic will change — and dramatically for the worse — if people ease up on social distancing or relax with other precautions. This is evidence that social distancing is crucial.”