Los Angeles County recorded more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases just over the past eight days — “the fastest acceleration of new cases than at any other time during the pandemic,” officials said Saturday.
The surging infection numbers prompted warnings for weeks for residents to avoid gathering so that the hospital system can avoid a crush of COVID-19 patients.
Now, as the county’s case total tops 610,300, the situation has become dire.
“Hospital capacity across the county is limited, and healthcare workers are hard-pressed to keep up with the need for care,” L.A. County Department of Public Health officials said in a news release.
There was a record number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Saturday: 5,424 patients.
That’s an increase of more than 300 new patients in one day.
Of the COVID-19 patients in hospitals Saturday, 21% were battling the respiratory illness in intensive care units.
“We are bearing witness every day to the terrible suffering caused by a virus that is spreading out of control throughout the county,” L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.
The health department confirmed 13,756 new coronavirus cases and 60 new fatalities Saturday, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 8,817.
“We are now seeing the consequences from Thanksgiving and cannot afford to see another holiday surge,” health department officials said.
With overcrowded hospitals already scrambling to add more beds, the chief medical officer at LAC + USC Medical Center, Dr. Brad Spellberg, said Friday that L.A. County hospitals won’t have room for other emergency patients if COVID-19 surge continues.
“I’m not going to sugarcoat this. We are getting crushed,” Spellberg said.
Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly said the county is experiencing a “crisis,” describing long ambulance offload times and full emergency departments.
“This isn’t just about someone who needs critical care in the ICU because they can’t breathe, they’re literally suffocating with COVID,” Ghaly said. “When the hospital is overwhelmed, it affects everybody.
“It affects you if you have a traumatic injury or a fall, if you’re in a car accident, if you need emergency surgery… this will affect everybody,” she said.
As they have for months, officials urged L.A. County residents to stay home.
“Places where people from different households gather and do not follow safety directives contributes to unnecessary COVID-19 spread that results in hospitalizations and deaths that could have been avoided,” Ferrer said.