KEARNEY — Members of the Buffalo County Health Care Coalition have begun meeting to share information, identify needs, direct resources and discuss how to best care for area patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Buffalo County could have approximately 1,000 hospitalized patients in coming weeks and months, based on health care experts who estimate roughly 40 percent of the general population may contract the virus that causes COVID-19 that could be 20,000.

An estimated 5 percent of that total may need hospitalization — that would be about 1,000 people in a county of 50,000.

Currently, there are about 267 licensed hospital beds available in Buffalo County, according to information from the group. Both hospitals plan to expand their current capacity to provide services for those who may need critical care.

Clinics, which serve as the front line in identifying patients and caring for those with mild to moderate symptoms, have put strategies into place to be part of a larger response if needed.

“Our community has always come together. If we see the need is in the hospitals, then we are going to pull resources from the clinics. We will go wherever the resources are needed,” said Dr. Robert Messbarger, Family Practice Associates physician.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney and others, including Two Rivers Public Health Department and Buffalo County Emergency Management, are assisting the group with efforts to secure additional space and critical supplies such as surgical masks, N-95 masks and ventilators from local, state and federal officials.

For the latest information, visit bcchp.org/covid19 (click on the health care tab) or facebook.com/bcchp.

Members of the coalition include:

- CHI Health Good Samaritan

- Kearney Regional Medical Center

- Children’s Physicians-Kearney

- Family Practice Associates

- First Care Medical

- Heartland Surgery Center

- New West Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Surgery

- Platte Valley Medical Clinic

- Buffalo County Community Partners

- Buffalo County Emergency Management

- Tri-Cities Medical Response System (TRIMRS)

- Two Rivers Public Health Department

- UNK

- Horner Lieske McBride & Kuhl Funeral & Cremation Services

- O’Brien Straatmann Redinger Funeral Home