Scripps Health nurse treats a coronavirus patient
A nurse treats a coronavirus patient in an ICU. Image from Scripps Health video

Hospitals in many parts of California are being overwhelmed by new COVID-19 patients, with ICU capacity severely strained in Los Angeles.

Another 41,012 people tested positive, and 300 died, state public health officials reported Friday. In a state with 40 million residents, only 1,200 intensive care beds remain available.

As of 9 a.m. Friday, Los Angeles County with a population of 10 million reported just 69 available ICU beds and adjacent Riverside County was out of beds. The situation is somewhat better in Orange and San Diego Counties, with ICU capacity of 7.1% and 16.3% respectively, but cases in those counties are rising quickly.

“We’re getting crushed. I’m not going to sugarcoat this. We are getting crushed,” said Dr. Brad Spellberg, chief medical officer at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. “For most of the days of the last week, we’ve had zero ICU beds open in the morning, and we have had to scramble. We’re already expanding care into areas of the hospital we don’t normally provide that type of care in.”

“And it isn’t just COVID patients,” he added. “It’s car accidents and heart attacks and victims of violence. They need a place to go to receive critical care. We can only react. We cannot stop the spread. We need the public to listen to these mitigation strategies to slow the spread or we will completely run out of beds.”

Spellberg also voiced the frustration felt by healthcare workers caused by those who deny the severity of the virus and downplay its impact on hospitals.

“The amount of moral courage it takes to run towards the danger makes it very frustrating for our heroes every day to come to our hospitals and care for patients when we see video and hear people not taking the public health strategies seriously,” he said.

His comments came amid a surge of cases that has exploded across the country since November, exacerbated by the Thanksgiving holiday and accompanying gatherings that occurred in spite of warnings against them.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said if the current trends continue for the next three to five weeks, his county’s health system will “have nothing left.”

“We expect to have more dead bodies than we have spaces for them,” he told a briefing on Thursday.

Updated at 5:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 18, 20202

Avatar photo

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.