California’s Regions “May Begin To Exceed Not Just Their ICU Capacity, But Their Hospital Capacity,” Warns State’s Top Health Official

On Monday, California Governor Gavin Newsom was asked about a growth model showing there may be 99,000 virus-related hospitalizations by mid-January.

Newsom said in mid-November that there were 73,867 hospital beds in the state. That number has doubtless grown as health care officials have implemented surge plans. But even if it has grown 50%, having 99,000 Covid-19 patients in the state would potentially crush the hospital system, given there would still be all the other maladies — heart attacks, car accidents, etc. — that need immediate attention.

“We are anticipating a substantial increase in the hospitalizations,” said Newsom before acknowledging that some of the models put total virus hospitalizations above 90,000 by mid-January. (It should be noted that while two respected models have the state over 90,000, many others show surprisingly low numbers of hospitalizations.)

“It is true that some regions may begin to exceed not just their ICU capacity, but their hospital capacity,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s director of Health and Human Services. “That is certain areas, not the whole state.”

Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley are two areas under particular stress, as their available ICU capacities are both at 0% and their hospitals are also seeing heavy case loads. In Los Angeles, according to the county public health director, it’s not just capacity, but skyrocketing illness among healthcare workers that threatens the system.

Ghaly said the state’s mutual aid system — whereby patients can be shifted from one hospital system to another — will help.

“We are looking to potentially stand up more alternative care sites in the state,” said Newsom. He also revealed that California had asked the federal government to provide another field hospital that would include a full staff.

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