In the most populous part of America's most populous state, the availability of intensive care unit beds now stands at 0%—and the situation is on course to get much worse. Hospitals in Southern California are now set to go into surge mode, which will up their capacity by 20%. But authorities warn that there is also a severe shortage of trained ICU staff and that the projections of how many COVID patients will need to land in the ICU in the coming weeks are ominous, the Los Angeles Times reports. The paper puts the ICU count in LA County at more than 1,000 people, up from about 250 at the start of November; forecasts show that by the start of January, it could hover between 1,600 and 3,600.
Elsewhere in California, the remaining ICU capacity is just 0.7% in the San Joaquin Valley, 11.3% in the Sacramento area, and 13.7% in the Bay Area, where San Francisco public health director Dr. Grant Colfax warns that a "catastrophic situation" lies ahead if cases keep rising, CBS reports. "I've seen more deaths in the last nine months in my ICU than I have in my entire 20-year career," a nurse at Kaiser Permanente Fresno Medical Center tells the AP. Field hospitals are being opened to treat non-ICU patients and hospitals are discharging recovering patients as quickly as they can, but authorities fear mortality rates are poised to soar. The surge is also making it harder to treat non-COVID patients. "It’s pretty much all COVID," a respiratory therapist at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital in Orange County tells KTLA. (The state has distributed 5,000 body bags in Los Angeles and San Diego.)