Capacity in intensive care units in Southern California has dropped to zero percent this week – a gloomy sign that the recent rise in COVID-19 cases could overwhelm the local health care system.
Although officials said that the zero percent figure does not mean that no beds are available at all, it is a warning that the ICU’s capacity is becoming thinner due to the number of cases of boarding in the region, the Wall Street Journal reported.
ICU capacity in Southern California – which includes Los Angeles County
Imperial, Inyo, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties – stood at 0.5% on Wednesday before falling to zero on Thursday, the newspaper said.
In LA County, more than 1,000 people with COVID-19 receive care in intensive care units, four times the number since Nov. 1, according to the Los Angeles Times.
By early January, that number could rise from 1,600 to 3,600 patients if transmission trends remain the same, the newspaper reported.
The county has only 2,500 authorized ICU beds.
“If the numbers continue to rise the way they are, I’m afraid we could run out of capacity in our hospitals,” said Dr. Denise Whitfield, associate medical director at LA’s emergency medical agency and emergency physician. at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, he told the Times.
“And the level of care that every resident of Los Angeles County deserves can only be threatened by the fact that we are overwhelmed.”
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Once the ICU beds are fully filled, hospitals are operating in overvoltage mode, allowing them to accommodate 20% over capacity, according to the report.
Meanwhile, medical staff working elsewhere in hospitals have been trained to work in the ICU – and hospitals are even looking for nurses from outside the US.
“There are simply not enough trained staff to take care of the volume of patients who are expected to need care,” Dr. Christina Ghaly, the county’s director of health services, told the newspaper. “Our hospitals are under siege, and our model shows no purpose.”
Nationally, the number of people hospitalized for coronavirus has broken records for 19 consecutive days, according to the Times.
On Wednesday, 15,431 people across the country were hospitalized for the virus – more than six times the number reported by Halloween.