California becomes ground zero for holiday COVID-19 surge
As the nation grapples with the latest wave of coronavirus cases, California has borne the brunt of the deadly vacation flood of COVID-19. On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom admitted that the Golden State had recorded a staggering 525,000 coronavirus cases in the past two weeks alone, with the daily increase of more than 40,000 cases suddenly becoming the new norm.
Los Angeles County, the largest in California, has the most new cases. The District Director for Health Services, Dr. Christina Ghaly said at a news conference last week that 1 in 80 residents has been infected since the pandemic began.
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"We are experiencing an explosive and very deadly wave," said Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Barbara Ferrer, adding that two people die from COVID-19 every hour in the county.
"Over 8,000 people who were loved family members are not coming back," Ferrer said as she repulsed tears. "And her death is an incalculable loss to her friends and family, as well as to our community."
But as bad as things have got in California, health officials are also warning that the worst is yet to come.
On Friday, hospitals reached a critical point where the state had been working on a stay-at-home order earlier this month, with ICU bed capacity dropping to zero percent in the 11 counties' southern region. This includes counties of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Imperial, Inyo, Orange, Riverside, and Mono.
Cassandra Craig, a 10-year trained nurse who works in an intensive care unit in Southern California, explained the "sense of fear and doom" that comes with every day at work.
"I know I am prepared for something that might be sad or scary and I know that in our hospital we are beyond capacity and we just have to roll with the blows and be flexible," said Craig opposite Yahoo News.
Overstretched healthcare systems across the state have struggled to keep up with the demands of the surge in new cases, setting up makeshift rollaway beds for COVID-19 patients, and buying real estate in other parts of the hospital.
"We changed the rooms to accommodate COVID positive patients in the ICU. We are using storage space in units that are not normally used for ICUs. They are used for patients who are about to travel home," explained Craig If you are in a room that is not designed for critically ill COVID patients, the space, materials, and what you can and cannot do in that room are limited. "
On Monday, Newsom, who placed himself in precautionary quarantine for 10 days on Sunday after one of its employees tested positive, warned that the hospital staff was extremely limited.
"We continue to see record-breaking ICU capacity, hospitals filling up, an increase that we are seeing no different from any other part of the country, but one that poses real challenges for our workforce here in the state," said the governor said at a press conference.
Craig said that due to a California mandate, nurses typically can't have more than two patients. Due to the personnel crisis, the California medical systems had to change this regulation.
Craig, a mother and wife, laments the strain the increase has placed on staff in some cases. “We work overtime. We are away from our families, ”she said. “People come in extra. Some people come in on their days off. Some people come in for 16 hours. We are stretched thin. "
To ease some of the strain, Newsom announced Monday that the state had deployed 607 state workers, including the California National Guard, medical aid teams, the California Health Corps, contract workers and others, in 75 facilities in 24 counties. The state has also opened alternative foster homes.
According to an Associated Press report, places like Los Angeles County are also drafting contingency plans in case they need to ration life-saving care. On December 15, Newsom ordered 5,000 body bags for Southern California in preparation for what many public health experts have predicted for a sharp increase in COVID-19 deaths.
Mortality from the disease from exposure to the coronavirus can be rapid. Last week Craig had a patient in her seventies who, even though she wasn't ventilated, was being treated with oxygen.
“By the end of my shift at 7:30 that night, she was awake and talking. ... Very sweet woman. She died a few hours later, "said Craig, adding," It just broke my heart that she died. We are sad. We are tired."
As of Tuesday, nearly 18,000 patients in California had been hospitalized for COVID-19, more than double the July high of 7,170. Intensive care units are filled with 3,861 COVID-19 patients. Newsom acknowledged that a government projection model shows there could be nearly 100,000 hospitalizations in the next month.
While health officials believe the surge in new infections can be traced back to October, Thanksgiving turned out to be a super-spreading event.
Shoni Taylor, a clinical specialist liaison officer at a Los Angeles hospital who supports nurses at her medical center and manages COVID-19 positive psychiatric patients, made her complaint to Californians who have sparked pandemic and quarantine fatigue.
"It's really frustrating when you work in the healthcare sector and you're on the front lines and you see people still gathering and partying," Taylor told Yahoo News, adding, "You're kind of frustrated because I don't have any of this I want to go on vacation! I want to meet with all of my friends and family ... but I try to be responsible. "There is so much resistance and the cases go on and on and on and on."
The recklessness of large indoor gatherings contributed to California's most recent home stay order, issued in early December based on a region's ICU capacity. When capacity drops below 15 percent in a particular region (Northern California, Greater Sacramento, Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, and Southern California), that region must follow the home stay order. Californians are designed to reduce unnecessary contact outside of their household unless they are required to perform a necessary task such as grocery shopping, picking up medicines, or exercise. Alfresco dining in restaurants - once considered the silver lining for Southern California, where Christmas temperatures are expected to hit the '70s - has also been banned, and all non-essential travel is banned.
"Our actions today can make a difference in what happens later," warned California Health and Welfare Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly during the briefing on Monday. “Every bit of our ability not to blend and cover our face reduces the likelihood that we will either transmit COVID or that we ourselves will be infected by someone else who is passing it on to us. It will be a victory for the state. "
Craig agreed. “Do you really want it on your conscience when someone gets sick? It is not worth. It's not worth the pain and grief that you will go through. "
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