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LA County Breaks Coronavirus Hospitalization Record Again, Several Hospitals Go Into Internal Disaster Mode

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Doctors in ICU at the LAC +USC Medical Center. (Photo Courtesy LAC+USC Medical Center)
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L.A. County is still facing record numbers of coronavirus numbers, with one person dying every 10 minutes from COVID-19 complications.

"More people than ever are dying," County Supervisor Hilda Solis said today in a press briefing. "148 people died of COVID-19 on Christmas Eve alone. These are figures that can't be normalized, and they're hard for me to comprehend."

HOSPITAL EMERGENCY

Currently, 6,914 people are hospitalized with COVID-19; 20% of them are in the ICU. That's the highest number of people hospitalized with the virus in L.A. County since the pandemic began.

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From Nov. 9 to Dec. 26, daily hospitalizations for patients with COVID-19 increased by 674%.

Hospitals are now treating patients in spaces such as conference rooms or gift shops, L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. That caused at least five hospitals in the county to go into internal disaster mode on Sunday, a designation in which the hospital closes to incoming emergency vehicle traffic, including ambulances.

Becuase of staffing shortages, the county hospital system has been unable to bring in more traveling nurses, which is what they would normally do in a situation like this. Instead, the county has deployed a high number of outpatient nurses to work in inpatient units and in emergency departments.

The vast majority of non-essential surgeries and procedures have been postponed, Ferrer said.

"It's one thing to have a surge when the staff are well, when they're rested, when the number of patients is steady," Ferrer said. "It is a very, very different and infinitely more dangerous situation to have hospitals experiencing a surge when the staff are exhausted. They're stretched thin, and they're already caring for more patients than they can safely handle."

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Courtesy LA County Deptartment of Public Health

DEATHS AND CASE COUNTS ARE ALSO ON THE RISE

The county is now averaging about 13,000 cases per day, with 13,661 reported today.

Ferrer said the rate of community transmission remains extraordinarily high. (It has now risen to 15%; for context, that rate was 4% on Nov. 1.) She said these numbers continue to impact the healthcare system.

At least 73 people in L.A. County died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours. Ferrer said an additional 432 people died over the weekend — a number that "reflects the delayed reporting associated with the Spectrum outage, and the holiday." The county is in the final stages of confirming that number.

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The total number of deaths in L.A. County now stands at 9,555, close to breaking the 10,000 barrier.

"We're continuing to experience the alarming surge in new cases," Ferrer said. "From November 1st, which is when this current surge began, through December 22nd, the daily number of cases increased by 965%."

ANOTHER PLEA TO AVOID GATHERING OUTSIDE YOUR HOUSEHOLD THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

We still don't know the effects of holiday gatherings — we'll have to wait two-to-three weeks for the data due to the virus' incubation period and, because of that, Solis said the worst could be yet to come.

"The situation we're currently facing is very alarming. And frankly, the alarm was pulled over a month ago, but people did not heed that warning," said Solis, adding that she understands people are frustrated and want to see their families right now, but doing that safely is nearly impossible, especially when testing isn't a get-out-of-jail-free card:

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"After a gathering, it doesn't mean that you're off the hook. These rapid COVID-19 tests that so many people are relying on are not always accurate, yet still people are gathering in each other's homes, traveling by plane and by car ... thinking that this crisis is something that isn't going to impact them ... a COVID test might clear you for a flight, but it doesn't clear you of getting infected and bringing the virus back to other people in your household."

Solis added that car travel isn't safe either, if you're with passengers outside your immediate household:

"The Automobile Club of California forecasted that 5.7 million Southern Californians traveled by car from December 23 through January 3. That means, frankly, at this point, that we really have to make some dramatic changes if we're going to bring this virus down."

Ferrer echoed Solis: "What we learned from Thanksgiving applies now. Mingling with people outside of your immediate household is one of the leading causes for the current surge. All it takes is one unfortunate encounter with an individual with COVID-19 for you to become infected. And sadly, for you to go on and infect many others."

The state is advising a self-quarantine of 10 days after traveling, in addition to monitoring yourself for any symptoms of illness for the full 14 days of the virus' incubation period.

Solis said the county is looking into enforcement if the public continues to not heed warnings. She said county officials are also looking into the effect of retail being open at 20% capacity.

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