Hospitals prepare for solar eclipse 

As the eagerly awaited total solar eclipse approaches, cities along its path of totality are bracing for an influx of visitors, prompting hospitals to implement various precautionary measures.

The total solar eclipse will cross North America on April 8. Its path of totality — the narrow strip of land where the full eclipse will be visible — spans from Central Texas to Northeastern Maine. NASA estimates 31.6 million people live in the path of totality, covering a much larger swath of the U.S. population than the path of the last solar eclipse in 2017.

Cities along the path of totality are anticipating an uptick in visitors hoping to view the eclipse, which could lead to congested roads, spotty cell phone coverage and more emergency department visits. In response, hospitals are taking extra precautions to meet care demands and ensure operations are not disrupted. 

Many hospitals, such as Watertown, N.Y.-based Samaritan Health and Killeen-based AdventHealth Central Texas, are curtailing outpatient care the day of the eclipse. Hospitals are also ramping up staffing to prepare for a potential surge in patient visits — particularly in the ED — as well as coordinating internal communication plans. 

"We're not worried, but we're prepared," Kevin Roberts, president and CEO of AdventHealth Central Texas, told NBC affiliate KCEN-TV. "It's the cell coverage, computer outages, those sorts of things, so we have to have alternate methods of communication. We have to make sure that our parking lots are accessible. Those are the things that we're planning ahead the most."

AdventHealth Central Texas is allowing staff to spend the night April 7 so they don't have to drive through traffic the morning of the eclipse, according to Fox 44 News. It also has extra food and fuel for generators on hand, if needed.

EMS services in Temple, Texas, are also ramping up staffing and strategically planning ambulance locations to ensure they can transport patients with emergent conditions in a timely fashion amid increased traffic from eclipse viewers.

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