On February 20, 2020, a patient in his 30s admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) in Codogno Hospital (Lodi, Lombardy, Italy) tested positive for a new coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). He had a history of atypical pneumonia that was not responding to treatment, but he was not considered at risk for COVID-19 infection.
The positive result was immediately reported to the Lombardy health care system and governmental offices. During the next 24 hours, the number of reported positive cases increased to 36. This situation was considered a serious development for several reasons: the patient (“patient 1”) was healthy and young; in less than 24 hours, 36 additional cases were identified, without links to patient 1 or previously identified positive cases already in the country; it was not possible to identify with certainty the source of transmission to patient 1 at the time; and, because patient 1 was in the ICU and there were already 36 cases by day 2, chances were that a cluster of unknown magnitude was present and additional spread was likely.
On February 21, an emergency task force was formed by the Government of Lombardy and local health authorities to lead the response to the outbreak. This Viewpoint provides a summary of the response of the COVID-19 Lombardy ICU network and a forecast of estimated ICU demand over the coming weeks (projected to March 20, 2020).