Los Angeles [US], December 17 (ANI/Xinhua): Unchecked Thanksgiving gatherings of friends and families across the Golden State result in an unprecedented surge of COVID-19 cases, with more to come, California health officials noted Tuesday, warning statewide intensive care units (ICUs) capacity is at only 5.7 percent.
California health officials reported an unprecedented 42,120 cases on Monday, six times higher than mid-October, breaking the single-day record set Dec. 8 when 35,400 coronavirus cases were recorded.
And on Tuesday, Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the United States, reported record levels of 11,194 new COVID cases a day and 86 confirmed deaths, the highest number since the summer surge.
However, for local public health officials, more worrisome figure is the hospitalisation rate, which increased 68 percent in the past two weeks statewide.
In Los Angeles, 4,403 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, up from 1,049 on November 16, and 21 percent of these people are in the ICU, Barbara Ferrer, the county's public health director, said at Tuesday's press conference, adding "Our reality is frightening at the moment."
"We need to brace ourselves that this (hospital COVID) case volume has not yet reached a peak and will keep growing," Christina Ghaly, director of Los Angeles County Health Services, echoed at the online conference later, as LA topped 500 new daily hospital admissions with that number expected to exceed 700 in a week.
Due to the surge, according to the latest data released by the state authority on Tuesday, two of five regions designed by the state to measure the pandemic situation based on ICU capacity were on edge of running out of their ICU beds.
The average available ICU bed capacity in Southern California fell to only 1.7 percent on Tuesday, down from 2.7 percent on Monday as infection rates spiraled out of control.
Meanwhile, in San Joaquin Valley region, the number is even lower at 1.6 percent and hospitals have to house patients in other areas not designed for intensive care, increasing patient mortality risk.
Like Orange County last week, Los Angeles County had been so hammered by the coronavirus that 81 percent of hospitals that receive 911 call patients were forced to send their ambulance patients elsewhere for parts of Sunday, said health services, while other hospitals had reported extraordinary delays for offloading patients from the ambulances.
"We're aware that in certain hospitals across the county, there are prolonged ambulance patient offload times that often do exceed four hours, five hours," Ghaly admitted.
In Ventura County of Southern California, COVID-19 hospitalisations also shattered records, with new hospitalized cases reaching 72 percent higher than July, dropping available ICU beds to 1.4 percent.
Mark Lepore, an intensive care physician at Ventura County Medical Center, said at an online briefing conference Monday that he expected cases to exceed hospital capacity very soon.
"And what exceeding capacity looks like is showing up to the hospital and not having a room to go into or not having a staff member to take care of you," he said grimly.
Ventura County health officer Robert Levin was dismayed by people who persist in gathering, going to parties, going to church and playing sports as if it was life as usual.
"None of these justifications are acceptable in the face of the pandemic. We all need to be working together, just like we would be fighting any war," he said.
He also recalled one of his daughters working at a hospital in Sacramento, capital city of California, told him, "'Daddy, I look around the hospital: These aren't just old people that are sick and dying. These are young people, like me.' It's heartbreaking."
Vanessa Walker, a critical care physician with Sutter Health, told local KCRA 3 news channel that zero percent ICU availability indicated a "big strain" for hospital workers and facilities, but it doesn't mean the patients wouldn't find care if they needed to go to the hospital.
According to the California Hospital Association, hospitals usually took three steps to ease overcrowding when ICUs reach capacity.
However, Walker explained that making room for more patients by converting regular beds into ICU beds means "an extra strain" on those who staff them, since ICU physicians and nurses must go through extra training.
San Diego County estimated about 17 percent of ICU bed capacity remained so far, but Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten warned that only about 6 percent of all remaining ICU beds had enough staff to man them. (ANI/Xinhua)