Hospitals in Los Angeles County are running out of oxygen for treating COVID-19 patients, and they're already out of intensive care beds. With patients waiting for hours in ambulances outside the hospitals to be admitted, health officials are asking people to stay away from emergency rooms and not call 911 if they can, to help keep the situation from getting any worse. "Everything we're worried about and talked about and warned people about since February is coming to fruition—we're at that point now," said a Santa Monica neurosurgeon. Hospital officials have discussed rationing care. The county's health director said that at this rate, almost 7,000 more people could die of the illness by the end of January, the Los Angeles Times reports. So far in the pandemic, 9,305 people have died of COVID-19 in the county.
An ICU nurse said nurses are burning out. It seems like he hears every day that two or three of them have taken time off, per NPR. "You can see so many nurses have depression," the nurse said, adding, "It's so much worse than before." A chief medical officer at one hospital said, "You've got nurses that are assigned 20 patients when they're only supposed to be assigned five." And more health care workers themselves are testing positive for the coronavirus—2,191 in the second week of December. Hospitals are even running out of items such as the plastic tubing that carries oxygen to patients' lungs. County health officials have asked hospitals to discharge patients as quickly as possible to make room for more. After holiday gatherings are over, they fear, hospitals will face another surge in patients. "The worst is yet to come," a county health official said. (Read more coronavirus stories.)