COVID-19 hospitalizations
Medical staff treat a coronavirus patient in their isolation room on the Intensive Care Unit on January 4, 2022. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

COVID-related hospitalizations in San Diego County increased by 73 to 1,061 Tuesday, an “unprecedented pace” that follows a record-setting weekend where hospitals struggled to keep up.

Hospitalizations have increased at a steeper rate than when the county reached its peak — 1,725 on Jan. 11, 2021, according to the latest state figures.

Of the hospitalized patients reported Tuesday, 166 were in intensive care, down two from the previous day. The number of available ICU beds increased by four to 187.

According to state data, COVID-19 hospitalizations have more than tripled in the past 30 days, from 325 to 1,061.

Some COVID-positive patients may have been hospitalized for other reasons and had their COVID status discovered by hospital-mandated tests.

A total of 12,563 new COVID-19 cases were reported by the county Monday, along with 17,507 on Sunday and 19,009 on Saturday. The previous daily high in cases was 8,313 on Jan. 2.

The county Health and Human Services Agency reported the record numbers — a third of which came from reporting delays — as local hospitals are “struggling with staffing amid hundreds of their employees contracting the virus and being unable to report to their shifts,” a statement from the agency read.

There are nearly 600 health care workers at UC San Diego Health out sick because of COVID-19, CEO Patty Maysent said. Additionally, the number of children testing positive for COVID-19 at Rady Children’s Hospital set a record Monday, according to Dr. John Bradley, the director of infectious diseases at the hospital.

“We expected to see a surge after the holidays, especially with the arrival of the more transmissible Omicron variant, but these numbers are unprecedented in this pandemic,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. “The virus is everywhere in our community. We must all step up now and re-dedicate ourselves to the precautions that we know work.”

Wooten reminded residents that the Omicron variant can be dangerous or deadly, despite what she said is a common misconception.

“Hospitalizations are increasing amid this current surge and it’s important to understand that hospital admissions are a lagging indicator,” she said. “We expect hospital admissions to increase even further in the coming weeks as people who are currently ill develop more severe symptoms.”

To help alleviate the strain on local hospitals and prepare them for the expected surge in admissions, the HHSA recommends that only people needing emergency care should go to a hospital emergency department.

Additionally, at this time, COVID-19 testing should be reserved for those at higher risk of serious illness and people who need it the most. People should not go to an emergency department for testing with no or mild COVID symptoms, she said.

The county reported no deaths Monday, and its cumulative totals increased to 525,754 cases while the death toll remained at 4,500.

A total of 46,571 tests were reported Monday, and the seven-day average positivity rate was 27.3%, up from 25.4% on Thursday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday unveiled a proposed $2.7 billion COVID- 19 emergency response package as part of his next budget proposal, including a $1.4 billion emergency appropriation request to bolster testing capacity, accelerate vaccination and booster efforts, support frontline workers, strengthen the health care system and “battle misinformation.”

On Friday, Newsom announced the activation of the California National Guard to help provide additional testing facilities and capacity amid the national surge in cases driven by the Omicron variant.

–City News Service