Too many people needing hospitalization at one time could be overwhelming

By John R. Stone

There has been a lot of speculation about how to attack something like the coronavirus COVID-19. Some feel some actions have been too extreme, some feel they have been too slow and not extreme enough.

The whole idea of the current plan is to keep too many people from getting the virus at one time. Too many people who require hospitalization at one time could overwhelm health care facilities.

We have 11,000 people in Pope County and 22 hospital beds in Glenwood. Most of those beds are not the kind you would normally  use for a coronavirus patient, coronavirus patients would ideally be in beds in a isolation unit where the chance of transmitting the virus to other patients would be negligible.

The current numbers commonly circulated indicate that slightly over 80 percent of those infected will do just fine by staying at home and weathering COVID-19 as they would the flu. The remaining 20 percent may have a tougher time because they are older, have an underlying health condition such as heart issues or diabetes. Some of the 20 percent’s cases could advance to pneumonia.

Here comes the math part. If just one percent of the Pope County population got COVID-19 at one time, 110 people, the 20 percent that required advanced care could flood a hospital. Not all would come to Glacial Ridge Hospital, some might go to Morris, Benson or Alexandria, but we would probably get some from Stearns and Douglas Counties. Remember the hospital is already caring for people with various health issues, there are not 22 beds empty every day waiting to be occupied.

That is why numbers matter. Even a small number of infected people can create a huge problem for a medical facility.

That is why even people less likely to be severely affected need to play along with the social distancing issue. Since the virus seems to be contagious before a person experiences symptoms (dry cough, fever, shortness of breath), a person can be a carrier and spreader without knowing it. 

So the whole idea behind closing schools and businesses where people gather and using other social distancing techniques is to slow the spread and maybe even put an end to it. We would have a hard time handling a quick spread of the virus. If everybody behaves, those who have the virus will recover and cease to be transmitters, new people won’t get the disease and it will just die off.

But everybody has to participate. One carrier who doesn’t can ruin things for a lot of people.

That was the reason for restaurant and bar closures. That is a terrible thing for those businesses. But one person in a crowded bar could infect 20 to 30 people pretty easily. Then those people would go out and spread the disease. In a matter of days you could have hundreds of infected people.


We’re hunkering down at our house. There are a lot of projects that would have waited a long time that are getting completed.

But we aren’t locked up. I can still take my daily walk. We get in the car and drive around the countryside and hope spring would arrive a little sooner.

I’ve been downtown to Tom’s and Ace but they are not crowded. After such a trip I wash my hands or use hand sanitizer. I haven’t bought a roll of toilet paper, we had enough for a few weeks and I’m sure stores will have more. But I do plan on going to the store for milk and other needs.   

This is tough on most businesses, especially bars and restaurants that live off of regular daily business. Remember these folks when this is over and go out to lunch or dinner. If they offer takeout dinners in the mean time, try one. I see some are selling gift certificates to be used when this is over. It is an effort to raise cash today to be here tomorrow. Consider getting one. We want them there when this is over so our lives can return to normal. Take care!