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As OC Hospitals Are Overwhelmed, Health Officials Around The Region Plead With People To Stay Home

Dr. José Mayorga, Executive Director in family medicine at UCI Medical Center, receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, the first day shots were available in Orange County. (Chava Sanchez/LAist
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Orange County health officials today reported 1,486 patients are hospitalized in the county with COVID-19. That includes 319 ICU patients, a startling increase of more than 100 people in just one day.

Both are new records.

Officials blame the recent surge on gatherings where people are not wearing face coverings.

And that prompted this emotional plea from county health director Dr. Clayton Chau at this week's board of supervisors meeting: Stay home.

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"I am fearful. I lose sleep every night. I am afraid — I've never been so afraid of Christmas and New Year in my life like I am now because I don't want... I can't imagine what it would be like after the holiday if people are not listening and people are not complying and get together."

Chau's plea at Tuesday's meeting came the day before vaccinations began in Orange County.

Tonight, Orange County Public Health Agency officials announced so many hospitals were requesting ambulances be diverted to other facilities that they were halting the practice, for now. A statement issued by Dr. Carl Schultz, the county's Emergency Medical Services director, said:

"In our current COVID-19 situation, due to overwhelming numbers of patients presenting for emergency departments for care across the county, almost all hospitals were running on diversion. If nothing was done, ambulances would soon run out of hospitals that could care for their patients."

Many public health officials have made increasingly emotional requests that the public take this surge in new cases seriously. The steep rise comes just weeks after Thanksgiving, with Hannukah currently under way and Christmas and New Year's fast approaching.

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L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told our newsroom that she shares her Orange County colleague's fears.

"We do every day have to announce all the people who passed away, and every day that number grows bigger and bigger, and at this point that train is out of the station," Ferrer said, on a day of record deaths and new cases in her county. "Many more people will need to be hospitalized and many more people unfortunately are going to pass away, all during this holiday season."

The bottom-line message from health officials: If you have holiday plans that involve travel or gathering with people outside your household, please re-think them.


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Here's a look at longer-term trends in the county. To see more, visit our California COVID-19 Tracker and choose Orange County or any other California county that interests you. These numbers were current as of Wednesday, Dec. 15, and do not include today's updates:



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