After hitting LA, COVID-19 wave is now hitting Southern California suburban counties

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When the fall wave of COVID-19 erupted over a month ago, the epicenter was again Los Angeles County, where the large population of essential workers and others living in densely populated neighborhoods. populations made the region particularly vulnerable to the rapid spread of infections.
But now Southern California’s more suburban counties are quickly catching up, fueled by Thanksgiving rallies that have pushed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations to unprecedented levels and have left hospital intensive care units in critical levels.

The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties has all doubled since Thanksgiving week, according to a Times analysis.

Suburban counties are also seeing record levels of new daily infections – all far worse than the summer surge and, in many cases, at a rate of increase worse than that of LA County. While LA County has seen its latest average daily number of cases nearly triple from its summer peak, counties in even worse shape from their summer highs include Ventura, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.

Riverside County is in worst shape from its summer peak, more than quadrupling its average daily number of cases from its August peak. Riverside on Thursday recorded an average of almost 3,500 cases per day over the past week, far worse than the comparable peak of almost 800 in August.

Per capita, LA County had more coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the past week than Ventura, San Diego and Orange counties but less than Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Critical care unit capacity continued to deteriorate in Southern California, with availability in Southern California falling to 6.2% from 7.7% a day earlier.

“The speed of the increase – or the slope of the curve – is much greater now than it was before,” said Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, medical epidemiologist and infectious disease expert at UCLA Fielding. School of Public Health.

“I think it was the result of the widespread transmission that was occurring during the Thanksgiving holidays, so that so many people – asymptomatic or presymptomatic people – were spreading the disease not only among themselves but within their own families.” Kim-Farley said.

This is why it is so important for Californians to follow the stay at home order as much as possible in the coming weeks, Kim-Farley said, in order to contain the spread of the highly contagious virus and avoid a even worse calamity at the start of winter. Unless current trends change, the University of Washington Institute for Health Measurement and Evaluation predicts the cumulative death toll from COVID-19 in California could more than double by the end of winter to reach over 50,000. More than 20,700 Californians infected with the coronavirus have died.

It may take even longer to start seeing average daily cases of the coronavirus start to flatten out compared to the spring outbreak, Kim-Farley said, as there are now so many households struggling with the virus. During the next week or two, there will be more household members who fall with the disease, infected by roommates or relatives who left their homes during Thanksgiving.

Orange County officials said this week that the healthcare system faces an unprecedented “crisis” as coronavirus patients flooded into hospitals. There were more than 1,100 coronavirus patients hospitalized across the county; 265 people were in intensive care, according to the latest data available.

“At the current rate of deterioration, the EMS system could collapse unless emergency guidelines are implemented now,” wrote Dr Carl Schultz, director of emergency medical services at the Care Agency. County Health Department, in a note this week to hospitals and paramedics and paramedics. .

Some immediate measures, he said, include allowing ambulances to travel longer distances to take patients to hospitals that can accept them, and allowing them to take a patient to another hospital. if they have been waiting outside with the patient for more than an hour. Hospitals should also consider activating their surge plans, establishing alternative treatment areas and canceling elective surgeries, he added.

Dr Clayton Chau, Orange County health official and director of the Health Care Agency, also encouraged residents “who can get services through emergency care, can get services through emergency care. through their primary care physician. [to] go ahead and do it, and don’t just show up to the emergency room. ”

Orange County, however, is far from an outlier as the state’s medical systems are under intense pressure. Californians test positive and are getting sick and dying from COVID-19 at unprecedented levels. The state has on average nearly 29,000 new cases of coronavirus per day and about 150 daily deaths over the past week.

The timing and acceleration of the outbreak indicates that many officials and experts have ignored calls for avoid traveling and gathering for Thanksgiving – a potentially frightening prospect, given that the winter holiday season is in full swing.

The state responded by placing a new home order in Southern California and the Central Valley. Parts of the Bay Area have also voluntarily adhered to the restrictions, which are now in place for 36 million Californians. The ordinance suspends alfresco dining, bans most gatherings, bans use of the hotel for recreation and tourism, limits most retail capacity to 20%, and closes trade lounges. hairdressing, nail salons, card rooms, museums, zoos, aquariums, theaters, wineries and overnight stays. in campsites.

Los Angeles County hit another alarming milestone on Friday, when the number of cases rose dramatically in a single day to 13,507 – again breaking the all-time single-day record – pushing cumulative cases County. over 500,000.

“We are seeing numbers of cases and hospitalizations on a daily basis that we didn’t know about and frankly didn’t anticipate,” said Barbara Ferrer, LA County Director of Public Health. “The bed capacity of our intensive care unit continues to decline. We are on a very dangerous path to see unprecedented and catastrophic suffering and death. ”

As of Thursday, the most recent day for which full data is available, there were 3,850 COVID-19 patients hospitalized across the county, including 856 in the ICU – both records.

The number of people hospitalized in LA County with coronavirus infections has doubled since Thanksgiving and has quadrupled in the past month, when there were 942.

“The best thing we can all do now is stay in our homes as much as possible and away from people we don’t live with,” Ferrer said in a briefing Friday.

Officials fear the situation will only worsen as more people allegedly exposed during the Thanksgiving holiday fall ill. There is still hope the new stay-at-home order will make a difference, but it will be weeks before it is known whether people are following the rules and the effects become apparent.

“We cannot undo what has already been done, and collectively we are all going to pay a very high price for the actions we have taken in the past,” Ferrer said.

At this point, she added, “it’s not a question of whether we will see a sharp increase in hospitalizations and deaths”, but a question of how serious the numbers are.

Officials have often said that the increase in the number of infections leads to an increase in hospitalizations two to three weeks later. Two weeks ago, LA County was seeing an average of 4,500 new cases of coronavirus per day. This wave is currently fueling the record number of hospitalizations.

If the same proportion holds, the recent average workload of 13,500 new infections per day will trigger a tidal wave in two weeks – possibly doubling the number of people in LA County hospitals to 7,300, including nearly of 1700 in intensive care.

There are only about 2,100 adult intensive care beds in all county hospitals, according to Ferrer.

“We are at a very critical time in the pandemic due to the fact that we are so close to overcapacity in our intensive care beds,” Kim-Farley said. “And that is why it is imperative that everyone follow the guidelines and instructions of public health officials, so that we are not in a situation where loved ones are dying from COVID or, for that matter, d ‘other serious illnesses, without having a’ hostel room ‘in hospital and intensive care beds. ”



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