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LA County hospital beds drop to pandemic's lowest level of availability

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The number of available hospital beds in Los Angeles County has fallen to its lowest level in the pandemic, a result not only of the continued threat of COVID-19 and the re-emergence of influenza and RSVbut also the needs of a population that rejects non-urgent care.

Based on data collected from 90 hospitals, there were 242 adult beds available across the county as of Monday, LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told reporters Thursday. And, she added, “the average number of beds available so far in December is the lowest we’ve seen in the past four years.”

Compare current conditions to darkest days of the pandemic is not apples to apples, given that hospitals postponed many procedures and built up additional surge capacity in 2020 and 2021. But with operations now more normalized, the situation illustrates the pressures exerted by the coronavirus and the broader respiratory virus season.

“It is reasonable to assume that part of the reason for the low number of hospital beds available is that many patients are seeking care which may have been delayed in the early months of the pandemic and at high levels. circulating respiratory viruses resulting in a very large number of patients,” she said.

Additionally, healthcare workers are not immune to what is happening in their communities, meaning widespread transmission of respiratory viruses can force sick calls and affect staff availability.

“We also heard anecdotally from some hospitals that they were struggling to staff beds due to high retirement rates and nurses leaving full-time positions for different opportunities,” Ferrer said.

However, there are some preliminary signs – at least on the COVID-19 front – that measures are improving.

On Thursday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said hospitals in LA County admitted 14.2 coronavirus-positive patients per week per 100,000 population, down 4% from the previous week. In the previous three weeks, LA County saw week-over-week increases of 24% to 43%.

Reported coronavirus cases are also flattening. LA County recorded 2,991 new cases per day for the weekly period that ended Thursday, down 24% from the seasonal peak, which occurred the first week of December. On a per capita basis, the latest rate is 207 cases per week per 100,000 population; A score of 100 or more is considered high.

It is important to note that the reported cases – which come from hospitals or clinics – likely underestimate the true extent of the infection. Many people now self-diagnose using rapid home tests, the results of which are not reliably reported to the authorities.

Nationally, there have been estimates that true infection rates are perhaps five times higher than the level of actual reported cases, Ferrer said. But aggregate numbers can still be useful; If you start to see big increases, “you know you’re in trouble,” she said.

Surveillance data shows concentration of coronavirus in LA County Wastewater actually surpassed the peak of Omicron’s summer wave in the week ending December 21. 3, the most recent for which figures are available.

“The high sewage concentrations remind us that even with a slight drop in the number of cases, COVID transmission in LA County is still very high,” Ferrer said.

Recent improvements in case and hospitalization metrics likely mean a reprieve from the prospect of a local indoor mask order which could have taken effect shortly after New Year’s Day. But such a mandate remains possible if the transmission starts to rise again.

Now we kind of hit a plateau. I think we could increase again after December. 25 as more and more people are out of school, out of work, on vacation, traveling and gathering. And I have no way of knowing exactly how far it will go,” Ferrer said. “A lot of it depends on how much protection people take.”

Meanwhile, deaths from COVID-19 are on the rise. For the week ending Thursday, LA County reported 112 deaths, up 37% from the previous week and the highest since early August.

LA County’s total COVID-19 deaths are nearing 34,400. That figure includes another tragic milestone, as the county reported its 20th COVID-19 pediatric death this week, according to Ferrer.

Unlike the past two fall and winter seasons, hospitals are dealing not only with COVID-19, but also with a significant spread of influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, and other health issues that have been pushed back during the pandemic First year.

“These are still not normal times. There are a lot of different viruses going around,” said Dr. Graham Tse, chief medical officer at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital in Long Beach.

RSV cases, which “took off like wildfire” in late summer, appear to have stopped climbing, but the flu has also sent people to hospital, and COVID-19 cases have increased, Tse said this week.

The flu is increasing in many parts of the country, with probably the worst flu outbreak we’ve seen in a decade,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator. And nationally, COVID-19 is “on the rise, with [an] growing number of cases.

However, RSV appears to have peaked nationwide and is now falling, Jha said Thursday. Yet levels remain high in some parts of the country.

California pediatric hospitals continue to report stress RSV and other respiratory illnesses, with some of the larger facilities unable to accommodate incoming patient transfers due to emergency department capacity limitations.

So far, Tse said the surge hasn’t put pressure on his hospital’s intensive care unit in the same way as previous surges. If the numbers increase significantly, the hospital could double the number of patients in rooms or expand the areas used for patient care.

Given the strain on hospitals, health experts say residents should take extra precautions to prevent themselves and those around them from becoming seriously ill.

People may assess their personal risk differently, “but hand washing, social distancing, masking, not going out when you’re sick – all of these will help ease stress in the hospital and keep you safe your loved ones and family,” Tse said.

Stay up to date on vaccines and get the updated reminder, which is formulated protect against The original strain of coronavirus, as well as the Omicron subvariants that have dominated much of the year, are also important, officials say.

We have the playbook. We just need to put the playbook into action, and it’s time to do it,” said Fresno County Acting Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra. We know what to do. We just need everyone to roll up their sleeves, literally.

The last vaccination campaign was slow. Only 34% of people ages 65 and older in LA County have received their updated reminder since it became available in September, and only 22% of people ages 50-64 have gotten theirs. Of the youngest vaccinated adults – those up to age 29 – only 9% received the updated booster, as did 15% of those in their 30s and 40s.

Statewide, 19.4% of eligible Californians have has received bivalent recall.

The updated snap is now available in California for babies as young as 6 months old, a decision that went down as follows cdc action Last week.

“The good news is that vaccines work,” Vohra said. “The bad news is that we don’t have enough people getting their vaccine, especially their bivalent boosters.”

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