Coronavirus hospitalizations rise to unprecedented heights as California considers drastic steps

The number of Californians hospitalized with the coronavirus rose to a record high for the fourth day – rising to over 8,000, while they remained worried that a sustained rise in patients could eventually flood the state’s health care system.

Although there were no examples of 8517 hospitalizations seen on Tuesday, officials caution that this is unlikely to be the upper limit for the latest COVID-19 wave, as this figure largely excludes anyone who has only recently become infected, including Thanksgiving weekend. is.

“We can all choose to choose: do we want to be part of the solution to this terrible wave, or do we want to be the problem?” Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County Director of Public Health, said in a briefing Wednesday. “Because where he now falls into this effort, it has consequences for life or death, probably for people he knows and loves, but certainly for people across the county who are loved by others.”

Governor Gavin Newsom issued an alert earlier this week about the state of the state’s hospitals. Unless things change, he says California could exceed the capacity of the current intensive care unit by mid-December, an opportunity it warned it could require dramatic action to keep from becoming a reality.

Although ICU numbers have not yet reached the heights seen during the last COVID-19 surge in the summer, they are rapidly approaching these levels.

On Tuesday, the last day for which state data are available, there were 2,006 COVID-19 patients in intensive care. This is roughly 75% higher than two weeks ago.

The state’s current record is 2058, set on July 21st.

Although hospitals have plans to expand capacity, their ability to do so is limited. ICUs are a particular challenge as they usually require specialized locations, equipment, and personnel.

“As for the hospital’s practical ability to care for patients coming in at the door, it doesn’t just require a bed, but more importantly: it needs people, it needs staff, it needs supplies and equipment,” Christina Ghaly, director of LA County Health Services, said in a briefing.

With the rapid increase in the number of patients, officials said they were increasingly concerned that demand would exceed available supply – especially in intensive care units.

“Unless they have happened and changed in community data transfer, we expect to have a shortage of ICU beds in the next four weeks,” Ghaly of LA County said. “Hospitals need to take meaningful steps to meet the needs of the hospital, especially with regard to the level of care in the intensive care unit.”

Despite the distressing statistics, the possibility of even more restrictions – which Newsom says could include some kind of home order in the most stringent purple areas of the state’s coronavir reopening schedule – means hard sales for pandemics – battered businesses and California-weary people.

LA County, for example, has already confronted its recent moves.

For many, the most objectionable is the suspension of restaurants ’outdoor meals – which officials say will help reduce transmission by reducing long-term interactions between largely undisguised patrons.

However, critics have ruled this move completely unjustified by any kind of data and whimsical breadth against an already winding industry.

Pasadena, which has its own city health department, has decided not to follow the county’s leadership. Beverly Hills City Council unanimously voted to ban the outdoor meal on Tuesday and asked staff to explore the idea of ​​setting up an independent public health department that would allow the city to set its own rules.

The South Bay City Council, a joint competent authority in 16 cities and part of the county, recently sent a letter to Newsom asking it to “reconsider whether areas less affected by COVID cases and hospital care have significantly increased local control. receive. restrictions on businesses in their territory. “

“It’s time to replace‘ a one-size-fits-all policy ’with the ability to adopt local restrictions in designated areas,” the letter said.

It wasn’t just restaurants that emerged as political flames. On the first day when card clubs in LA County were forced to close due to growing coronavirus cases, casinos and representatives from those cities urged officials to allow them to reopen, citing the financial burden.

The card clubs were originally closed in March, but could only be opened outdoors in early October. The casinos were ordered to close again on Monday.

“Closing our casinos is like closing cities,” Ivan Altamirano, mayor of the City of Commerce, said at a news conference at Commerce Casino.

Altamirano joined Bell Gardens Mayor Alejandra Cortez and Hawaiian Gardens Mayor Ernie Hernandez to appeal to county officials, noting that casinos generate up to 75% of general box office revenues in these working-class cities.

Cortez said his city has already lost $ 9 million in tax revenue due to the closure of the Bicycle Hotel and Casino since the start of the pandemic, and has been forced to lay off staff and cut staff salaries.

“Our residents can’t afford further cuts,” he said.

Ferrer said that given the effectiveness of some basic infection prevention measures, such as widespread concealment and physical distance, the county’s latest rules try to “limit places where people mingle with others outside their household, to limit their capacity. places so that there is not much crowding.

“It’s very different from what we did months ago when we closed down all the trivial retail, all the non-core stores, because we didn’t really have the tools we have now,” he said. “Honestly, with the current tools, the problem is that people have to use them after that.”

As the debate swirls over the best way to curb COVID-19, the pandemic continues to rage across the country.

Last week, an average of 14,119 new cases of coronavirus were registered in California each day, up 55.6% from two weeks ago, according to data compiled by The Times.

State health officials estimate that 12% of those who achieve a positive result will be hospitalized two to three weeks later, which means that the unprecedented case load of the past week could trigger a new wave of hospitalizations.

There are already more than 2,400 coronavirus patients in hospitals in LA County, and Ferrer says that number is likely to get worse before it improves.

Santa Clara County officials also warned on Wednesday that the region’s hospital system is in danger of exceeding capacity. On Tuesday, intensive care units had 93% capacity in hospitals that traditionally serve the southern part of the county’s agriculture, such as Gilroy; and East San Jose, which is heavily Latin and hit hard by the pandemic.

None of these hospitals, including the San Jose Regional Medical Center, Kaiser Santa Clara and County Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, O’Connor Hospital, and St. Louise Regional Hospital, had more than five ICU beds on Tuesday .

“This means that the hospitals in our most vulnerable communities have the fewest beds available to those in need,” Dr. Jennifer Tong, deputy chief physician at Santa Clara Valley Valley Medical Center, said at a news conference Wednesday.

The ICU occupancy of other hospitals in the county was 84%.

Officials are working to redistribute patients as needed, Tong said, “but these numbers are a matter of serious concern. We want you and your loved ones to receive the care we need in our hospital if you get into a serious illness.

“We all need to do our part to slow the spread of transmission and protect our hospital capacity, thereby protecting those who live and work here,” he said.

It’s important to note, Ferrer said this week that the indicators measuring the epidemic are not just tables, but real people: neighbors, friends, siblings, parents and other relatives.

More than 19,300 Californians, including roughly 7,700 residents of LA County, have died in COVID-19 in the pandemic, and officials say they are worried that deaths could increase in the near future, as well as new infections and hospitalizations.

In addition to adhering to public health restrictions, experts say residents can help protect themselves from the coronavirus by wearing a public mask, washing their hands regularly, and staying home when they are ill; and avoiding physical distance and gatherings with those from whom they do not live.

“We’re seeing terrible growth in LA County that can only be reversed if everyone, businesses and individuals, carefully use the tools needed to slow the spread,” Ferrer said.

Times staff members Hayley Smith and Jaclyn Cosgrove contributed to this report.