As hospitals scramble for protective gear amid the coronavirus pandemic, California reported nearly 2,400 cases among its health care workers as of Sunday.
Though the cases account for about 11% of the state’s nearly 21,800 coronavirus cases, the large number includes on-the-job exposures at a time when medical centers and nursing facilities are desperately seeking more N95 masks and protective gowns during nationwide shortages.
Throughout the state, there have been reports of health care workers having to reuse face masks or make protective gowns out of raincoats and trash bags.
This is even as the state has distributed more than 41.5 million masks and other protective gear throughout California, according to officials.
“The state also continues to work on adding more masks and PPE to the state’s supply, both in purchases, and in acquiring a method to sanitize N95 masks,” the California Department of Public Health said in a statement.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week that the state secured a monthly supply of 200 million N95 and surgical masks for healthcare workers and others at the front lines of the pandemic. He also signed an executive order to make it easier for the state to bring in necessary medical supplies to fight COVID-19.
The 2,388 ill California health care workers also include those who were exposed to the virus through travel or close family contact, according to state officials.
“Regardless of the source of exposure, an infected health care worker needs to isolate from the workforce to prevent risk of infection to colleagues and the patients they serve,” the state’s Department of Public Health had said, adding that health care workers appear to be “just as likely, if not more so, to become infected by COVID-19 outside the workplace.”
This means that as the virus spreads, creating a more urgent need for health care workers at medical and nursing facilities, the state will have health professionals who need to quarantine or isolate themselves.
So far, county health departments have reported a total of 2,917 coronavirus patients who have been hospitalized at some point—1,145 of them in the intensive care units. Another 2,317 people hospitalized are those believed to have COVID-19 but hadn’t yet gotten their test results back.
Nursing homes have also been badly hit by the pandemic.
Newsom said Friday there were 191 skilled nursing facilities across the state being monitoring because they have patients and staff who have tested positive for COVID-19— that’s 1,266 people across all facilities.
In Riverside County, 84 residents had to be evacuated from a Riverside nursing home Wednesday after employees didn’t come to care for patients for two days in a row, according to health officials. The nursing home had 34 known COVID-19 cases among residents and at least five among staff.
The county sent out a call for help Saturday, urging health care professionals to sign up to care for COVID-19 patients at nursing and assisted living facilities.
California had 651 deaths from COVID-19 reported as of Sunday and out of the state’s 21,794 known infections, 4,870 of them were among people 65 and older.
More than 203,400 Californians had been tested as of Saturday, with 13,200 test results still pending, according to the health agency. As the state worked on ramping up its testing capacity after a slow start, the number of pending COVID-19 test results at some point peaked at 59,000, Newsom previously said.
The backlog has since been reduced with 22 state and county health labs currently testing for the coronavirus, in addition to commercial and academic labs like Quest, LabCorp, Kaiser, University of California and Stanford.