Just weeks ago, Los Angeles County’s hospitals were overwhelmed and on the brink of a worst-case catastrophic scenario, with plans ready if doctors needed to ration healthcare.
But with the region now in its fourth week of declining hospitalizations, it was clear Wednesday that the county was decisively on its way out of its third surge of the pandemic, its deadliest yet.
Yes, hospitals this week are still under pressure — scheduled surgeries are still suspended, and there’s still a shortage of medical staff, with hospitals relying on nurses drafted from clinics, contract agencies and the federal and state governments. L.A. County’s hospitals are still under great strain, with nearly three times as many COVID-19 patients as it did during the peak of the summer wave. The state has opened up two surge hospitals — in Sun Valley and Hawaiian Gardens — that have been used to relieve the strain on other facilities.
And conditions could still worsen, given the rise of mutant variants of the coronavirus circulating in California, one of which is believed to be more contagious and deadlier than the conventional variety. That variant, first identified in Britain in September, is rapidly spreading in the U.S. and could become the dominant variety of the coronavirus by March, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Local officials warn the mutant strain has the potential of triggering a fourth wave of the pandemic later this winter if people stop wearing masks, stop practicing physical distancing and hold large, crowded Super Bowl parties, much as they did for the NBA Finals and World Series that fueled the autumn-and-winter surge.
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