Los Angeles County continues to see climbing coronavirus infection and hospitalization numbers as officials grapple with what the health director has described as the “worst surge we’ve ever seen.”
There were 2,049 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Sunday — 24% of them in intensive care units throughout the county.
There hasn’t been this many people hospitalized for the respiratory illness in any 24-hour period since late July, according to data from the health department.
The county reported 5,014 new coronavirus cases Sunday, bringing the countywide total to 395,843 with 7,639 deaths. And as health officials predicted when hospitalizations spiked, COVID-19 deaths are also increasing.
L.A. County’s hospitals were at about 75% capacity as of Saturday, L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during a weekend news conference. This comes as the county sees an increase in the number of healthcare workers, particularly nurses, contracting the coronavirus.
While the county’s hospitals can try to avoid being overwhelmed by discharging some patients, canceling elective surgeries and opening up additional capacity, having the extra hospital beds won’t help as much if there aren’t enough healthcare workers to staff them.
“When healthcare workers are infected, they do have to stay home and isolate just like everyone else… which again contributes to a stress on the workforce,” Ferrer said. “You can have beds, but the beds all need to be staffed.”
The startling case and hospital numbers come as L.A. County enters a weekslong phase of tightened restrictions meant to clamp down on the new surge in infection numbers. Officials hope that by stopping in-person dining and limiting the number of people crowding together in businesses, the county will be able to decrease the number of people capable of transmitting the virus.
“If this doesn’t work, and two to three weeks from now, we find ourselves in a worse place than we are, we’re going to have to go back and look at what else do we have as options, because we cannot continue to risk overwhelming the healthcare system,” Ferrer said.
The coronavirus is spreading rapidly in L.A. County, with daily infection numbers climbing faster than ever before.
Ferrer called it the “worst surge we’ve ever seen.”
“Unfortunately, as was experienced across the whole state, the acceleration was extraordinarily rapid and somewhat unpredicted by all of us,” Ferrer said. “I mean, we were prepared for an increase, none of us really thought the increase would be so big over such a short period of time.”
Ferrer echoed advice by the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, to avoid bars, restaurants, public transportation and air travel.
“Please do not gather with people outside your house,” the health directer urged residents. “We’re really trying to ensure that for the next three weeks, we do everything we can to get the surge to decrease.”
“The light is there, finally, at the end of this long tunnel, with vaccinations,” Ferrer said. “But we’ve got to get there.”