L.A. County shatters COVID-19 hospitalizations record with more than 4,000 people hospitalized

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Los Angeles County has again broken a record for coronavirus hospitalizations, officials said Sunday, fulfilling the county public health director’s dire predictions in just days.

More than 4,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in the nation’s most populous county — 21% of whom are in intensive care units — according to figures released Sunday afternoon. That breaks the previous record set only the day before, with 3,850 patients in a hospital, and follows the trend of hospitalizations increasing nearly every day since Nov. 1.

“This has to be the worse that I’ve seen for hospital systems across L.A. Our beds are filling up with COVID,” said Dr. Haig Aintablian, a senior emergency medicine resident at UCLA. “Our hospitals are almost at a critical point, where at any moment, all our hospitals could lose beds.”

LA County Health Director Barbara Ferrer warned on Monday — when hospitalizations were 2,988 — that the county could see the statistic to climb to 4,000 within two weeks. It happened in six days.

The county also on Sunday reported 12,731 new confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 525,486 cases to date.

Statewide coronavirus figures were not immediately available Sunday as more than 325,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are on their way to California.

The first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine left Michigan early Sunday for 145 distribution centers nationwide. States will get vaccines based on their adult population and additional shipments are coming this week.

The vaccine is heading to hospitals and other sites across the country that can store it at extremely low temperatures — about 94 degrees below zero. Pfizer is using containers with dry ice and GPS-enabled sensors to ensure each shipment stays colder than the weather in Antarctica.

In California — where Saturday produced another record day of new confirmed cases — counties will have specific allotments that will be distributed to hospitals determined by state health officials to have adequate storage capacity, serve a high-risk health care population and have the ability to vaccinate people quickly. Priority will be to inoculate health care workers on the front lines of a pandemic that has infected more than 16 million people and claimed nearly 298,000 lives in the U.S. alone.

Represented in those U.S. deaths include a disproportionate number of people of color.

In Santa Clara County in Northern California, volunteers have begun a door-to-door coronavirus testing pilot program in a majority Latino community that has become a virus hot spot. Officials started handing out self-testing kits in the East San Jose neighborhood of Silicon Valley’s San Jose last week, where 55% of the population is Latino and officials say many residents cannot easily access testing sites.

But for many, the vaccines are still out of reach. The priority will be for health care workers to be inoculated first.

Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted that a group of medical experts convened by Western states met Saturday to discuss the vaccine and confirm that it is safe for public use. Newsom said distribution could begin as early as Sunday.

Medical facilities at military bases in Alameda and San Diego will be among the first sites to receive vaccines, the U.S. Department of Defense announced earlier this month.

The vaccines are coming as the situation grows more dire by the day nationwide and in California, with the holiday season well underway. Public health officials are afraid the already surging infection rates and hospitalizations will continue to climb as people ignore precautions to gather for the holidays.

On Saturday, the number of available ICU beds in San Joaquin Valley plummeted to zero for the first time and San Francisco reported 323 new cases, the highest since the pandemic began. Millions of Californians in the majority of the state are under stay-at-home orders.

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