LOS ANGELES (CN) — In a month of new Covid milestones where each day seems to surpass the grim records set the day before, Wednesday’s report by Los Angeles County officials of over 22,000 new infections and a record-breaking 138 deaths in a single day highlights both the brute force of infection spread and a hospital system about to be overrun.
Health officials said over 4,600 people with Covid-19 are hospitalized as of Wednesday, the most since the start of the pandemic and an increase of about 200 patients from the previous day. A month ago, just 1,100 people were hospitalized.
The rate of infection continues unabated, leaving LA County hospitals bursting at the seams. In the last 24 hours, the county saw 22,422 new cases — some coming from an approximately 7,000-case backlog from over the weekend.
That figure represents another daily record, which means emergency rooms and hospital staff will soon be overwhelmed.
“Our hospitals are under siege,” said Dr. Christina Ghaly with the Department of Health Services during a public briefing. “But the worst is still before us.”
Roughly 2,500 staffed hospital beds meant for the sickest patients in intensive care units across LA County are projected to be full in the next month based on the current rate of infection. Ghaly called the projections “frighteningly high” and “off the grid” when compared to metrics in the early days of the pandemic.
As many as 5,000 hospital beds and 3,500 ICU beds could be needed in the next 30 days, exceeding the current availability across the entire county.
“Slowing the spread when 1 in every 1,000 people are infected and infecting others is a very different story and astronomically easier than slowing the spread of the virus when 1 in 80 people are infected and infecting others,” said Ghaly.
Public health officials urged people to stay home over the holidays, wear face coverings and stay distant from people who don’t live in their home.
Emergency room doctor Denise Whitfield from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center noted that for nine months, health care workers have had to treat patients who could not draw a full breath and tell family members that their loved ones might not survive.
“We have dealt with death of patients as well,” said Whitfield during the county briefing. “Looking at our numbers and how these numbers are increasing throughout the county, it’s really quite frightening to me.”
The county’s death toll stands at 8,568 people and over 539,000 Angelenos have been infected with the novel coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
Surge procedures will be rolled out at hospitals across the region, but health officials stress space is not the problem — facilities are short on staff who can care for patients.
South of LA in Orange County, mobile hospitals will be established due to the current surge in new cases. Roughly 1,300 people are hospitalized in Orange County and nearly 300 are in the ICU.
To the east, Riverside County has no available ICU beds, according to a county spokesperson. Some 980 people have been hospitalized and 180 ICU beds in the Inland Empire county are occupied.
Despite the rollout of some of the nation’s first Covid-19 vaccines given to health care workers this week, the worst seems to be just around the corner.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that the Golden State has ordered 5,000 body bags and 60 mobile morgue trucks to brace for what many medical experts have called “the winter of death.”