California hospitals discuss rationing care as virus surges

LOS ANGELES (AP) - California's overstretched hospitals are setting up makeshift rollaway beds for coronavirus patients, and a handful of facilities in severely affected Los Angeles County are creating contingency plans in case they need to cut back on the number of lifesavers.
The number of people hospitalized across California with confirmed COVID-19 infections is more than double the previous July. A government model predicts that a total of 75,000 patients could be affected by mid-January.
Plans for rationing care are not yet in place but need to be determined as "the worst is yet to come," said Dr. Christina Ghaly, Los Angeles County Director of Healthcare.
While vaccine shipments are being made to many healthcare workers and nursing homes across the country, it can take months for the footage to become available to the public. Until then, four Los Angeles County hospitals are considering what to do if they cannot treat all of them because of a lack of beds or staff.
In a document recently distributed among doctors at the four hospitals, it was suggested that instead of trying to save every life, the goal might be to save as many patients as possible - meaning those who are less likely to survive, not those would receive the same care.
“A compromise regarding the standard of care is inevitable. It is not that an entity, system, or locale chooses to limit resources, but that the resources are clearly not available to provide regular maintenance, ”states the document obtained from the Los Angeles Times.
Many California hospitals have already implemented emergency response measures to take up staff and space.
Corona Regional Medical Center, southeast of Los Angeles, has converted an old emergency room to treat almost double the number of critical care patients. Two disaster tents are also used to examine ER patients.
Overall, the state's ICU capacity was just 2.1% on Sunday. Some hospitals have canceled unnecessary elective surgeries such as hip replacements that may occupy beds that may soon be needed for COVID-19 patients.
Nurses say the number of cases means they have less time to spend with patients, many of whom are sicker than ever.
"The more patients we have, the greater the risk of making a mistake, especially if we hurry," said Wendy Macedo. a nurse at UCLA Health Santa Monica Medical Center. "Of course we try to avoid that, but we are only human."
California was experiencing "some of the darkest days of our COVID-19 surge," said Governor Gavin Newsom, but there was a bright Sunday when a group of scientists and experts endorsed a vaccine developed by Moderna. The move paves the way for the drug to be distributed across California and other western states that have been separately reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration.
CVS and rival Walgreens began providing footage at a number of long-term care locations in Connecticut and Ohio last week. Both companies have announced that they will expand their programs to 12 states starting this week. Those states include Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon and Vermont, CVS Health said Monday.
CVS plans three visits to each location to give residents and staff the first shot and then a booster. The program is expected to be completed in about three months.
With vaccinations limited until spring or summer, political leaders urge people to stay home and wear masks.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked airlines flying to his state from the UK to require all passengers to have a coronavirus test before boarding. At least one airline, British Airways, has agreed, the Democrat said.
Cuomo wants the US government to temporarily suspend flights from the UK as a new strain of the virus emerges in that country.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee on Sunday announced new restrictions on social gatherings while he still refused to implement a mask mandate despite requests from frontline health workers. Tennessee, one of a dozen states without a mask mandate, has the highest number of new cases per capita in the country.
Instead of a mask mandate, the Republican signed an executive order restricting public gatherings to 10 people. However, places of worship, weddings and funerals are excluded.
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Contributors to this report were associate press writers Tom Murphy in Indianapolis, Kimberlee Kruesi in Nashville, Tennessee, and John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio.
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