Hospitals and public health officials in Washington, D.C., are preparing for as many as one million people to arrive in the city for Donald Trump's inauguration by reviewing emergency response plans, stocking up on supplies—and hoping for the best.
The inauguration is expected to draw between 800,000 and one million people, including an estimated 400,000 protesters, Tina Reed writes for the Washington Business Journal. This year, about four times as many groups have applied for protest permits than the average for previous inaugurations.
The region's health care facilities have been preparing for several months for the inauguration, both independently and in collaboration with each other, in conjunction with the D.C. Department of Health (DOH), Kristi King writes for WTOP. In addition to reviewing response plans for prior inaugurations, Craig DeAtley, director of the Institute for Public Health Emergency Readiness at MedStar Washington Hospital Center (WHC), said hospitals are working to identify problems unique to this inauguration.
For instance, DeAtley said this year's inauguration is unique because it falls on a Friday, with events and protests stretching into the weekend. Most hospitals in the area expect an influx of patients with minor injuries and routine emergencies, such heart attacks and strokes, according to Reed.
MedStar WHC is stocking up on additional medications and supplies since road closures could make deliveries more difficult during the inauguration weekend. As of Tuesday, the hospital was not planning to bring in extra staff, but that was subject to change. "Based on the information we've been provided, we're not surging up our staff," DeAtley said, adding, "But we've put into places plans so that each of our respective departments can surge their staff ... if needed."
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Area hospitals are also preparing for mass-causality scenarios such as terrorist attacks, King reports. DeAtley added that MedStar WHC is aware of reports that anarchists may attempt to disrupt protests and provoke clashes with police. Hospitals are preparing decontamination measures if police use tear gas to control disruptions, according to Reed.
DeAtley acknowledged that this year's inauguration is a "bit different," but stressed MedStar WHC regularly prepares for large-scale events. "Whether it's for other planned events such as the Fourth of July or the State of Union (address), or responding to real-world emergencies, ... we train on a regular basis—through a variety of a different means," he said. "It isn't the first time we've done this."
Public health response
DOH is taking other steps to prepare for the inauguration, Reed reports. For instance, the department is allowing health care providers from outside the District to provide care by granting reciprocity for their medical licenses. Eligible providers will be able to work at health stations along the National Mall and the route for the inauguration parade.
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DOH Director LaQuandra Nesbitt added that officials are also piloting a new reporting tool that will track inauguration-related illnesses and injuries. The tool will generate a report every eight hours to spot any clusters of illnesses linked to food-related contamination or infectious diseases, which Nesbitt said will enable DOH to respond more promptly and potentially mitigate some illnesses. The tool will also help DOH respond to any potential bioterrorism event.
A blood shortage
There are concerns that the region will not have enough blood on hand in the event of a mass-casualty event, King writes.
Terri Craddock—director of Inova Blood Donor Services, which is part of Inova Health System and is largest hospital-based blood center in the country—said there is a critical need for more blood donors as the inauguration approaches. "We are part of the disaster preparedness for our Washington-metropolitan area, so we have to make sure we have an adequate supply of blood on hand of all types," she said. "I hate to keep using the word desperate, but we are desperate to increase our collections of type-O red blood cells."
Craddock added, "Right now with the inauguration coming ... our area is the area that really needs to increase collections" (Reed, Washington Business Journal, 1/13; Aubert, WJLA/ABC 7, 1/17;  King, WTOP, 1/16; King , WTOP, 1/16).
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Hospitals must be prepared for myriad disasters that can stress health care systems to the breaking point and disrupt delivery of vital health care services.
Advisory Board has compiled step-by-step procedures for various threats your facility may encounter—though we hope you'll never need to use them.