REPORT: Fewer Than 100 ICU Beds Available In America’s Most Populated County

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported that officials said fewer than 100 intensive care unit beds were available across Los Angeles County as coronavirus-related hospitalizations continue to surge throughout California.The Times said ICU beds “are plummeting to critical levels” after more than 4,400 patients had been admitted to area medical facilities due to COVID-19. Public health authorities say that number could increase to 5,000 by the end of this week. ICU capacity dropped to 2.7% on Monday across the Southern California region, the report said. A Times tally showed 42,129 cases reported across the state, a single-day record.

Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the L.A. County Health Services Department, said some hospitals in the county are experiencing “prolonged ambulance patient offload times that often do exceed four hours, five hours.”

“Many folks may be thinking that this is just not anything to be really worried about because hospitals can just add more beds,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “The reality is every bed needs to be staffed by highly trained and skilled healthcare workers, and we don’t have an endless supply of healthcare workers and those that are here saving lives every day are exhausted.”

L.A. County, the nation’s most populous, is home to more than ten million people.

The health department posted data on social media on Tuesday that indicated the average daily hospitalizations of people with COVID-19 increased 312% between Nov. 9 and Dec. 10.

“We can’t afford another holiday season surge that will further overwhelm our already strained hospitals,” LA Public Health said on its official Twitter account. “Please stay home & don’t gather with others.”

As the Times reported:

In L.A. County, COVID-19 hospitalizations are now six times higher than they were in mid-October. On Sunday, there were 935 coronavirus patients in L.A. County’s limited supply of intensive care unit beds – more than quadruple the number from Nov. 1. …

L.A. County is so slammed by COVID-19 patients that for certain periods of time on Sunday, 81% of hospitals who receive patients coming from 911 calls were forced to temporarily divert some ambulance patients elsewhere, said Dr. Christina Ghaly, the L.A. County director of health services.

Ghaly said officials are bracing for hospitalizations to worsen as people infected over Thanksgiving get so sick they need to be admitted. There are roughly 500 new daily COVID-19 hospital admissions in L.A. County, and that number could exceed 700 in a week, Ghaly said.

According to the Times report, the situation is just as dire in nearby counties. In neighboring Ventura County, to the west, ICU capacity dropped to 1%. Riverside County, which stretches eastward from the Greater Los Angeles area to the Arizona border, had no availability.

LA Public Health warns 1 in 100 people countywide are currently infected.

“We need to brace ourselves that this [hospital] case volume has not yet reached a peak and will keep growing,” Dr. Ghaly said.

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