Inside California's Nightmarish COVID Surge

State's hospital system could be overwhelmed with coronavirus cases
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 16, 2020 12:14 AM CST
Updated Dec 16, 2020 5:00 AM CST
Body Bags, Makeshift Morgues: Welcome to California
Shashi Kant, UC Davis Medical Center custodian, waits to be cleared after being inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 in Sacramento, Calif.   (AP Photo/Hector Amezcua, Pool)

Hospitals are filling up so fast in California that officials are rolling out mobile field facilities and scrambling to hire more doctors and nurses to prepare for an expected surge in coronavirus patients, the AP reports. Meanwhile California is distributing 5,000 body bags mostly to the hard-hit Los Angeles and San Diego areas and has 60 refrigerated trailers standing by as makeshift morgues in anticipation of a surge of COVID-19 deaths, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday. Fresno's Community Regional Medical Center in central California is rushing 50 beds into a building near the hospital and bringing in medical staff from outside the state to help staff the makeshift ward beginning Friday. Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno County’s interim public health officer, said alternate care sites will be needed as intensive care units fill up over the next few weeks.

In Southern California’s Orange County, health officials said mobile field hospitals would be rolled out to three hospitals that already need more space. The large, heavy-duty, temperature-controlled canvas tents with hard flooring add an extra 125 beds. The number of average daily deaths statewide has quadrupled from 41 a month ago to 163 now, while positive cases have surged to more than 32,500 each day. Of those new cases, an anticipated 12% will wind up in the hospital and 12% of those hospitalized will crowd already stretched intensive care units. That means one day’s worth of cases in California can be expected to produce a staggering 3,900 hospitalizations and nearly 500 ICU patients. The surge also has prompted an easing of normal nurse-to-patient ICU ratios and quarantine standards for health care workers. State officials are reaching out to the Department of Defense and overseas staffing services for desperately needed medical workers. (More here.)

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