LA health care workers feeling frontline fatigue as COVID-19 cases spike

Cedars-Sinai will be one of the first hospitals in California to receive the COVID-19 vaccine - and it can't come quickly enough.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in California are growing exponentially and ICU beds are quickly filling up.

While help appears to be on the horizon after the U.S. gave the final go-ahead Friday to the nation's first COVID-19 vaccine, for health care workers trying to save lives at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, they are experiencing growing fatigue as cases skyrocket.

Dr. Sam Torbati is the head of the emergency department at Cedars-Sinai. He says ICU bed capacity is already over 100%.

They are trying to add more space, but the hardest part is getting the specialized staff needed to handle ICU patients.

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Following the FDA saying it intends to grant emergency use authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, hospitals across the country -- including in Southern California -- prepare to receive the first round of doses amid a worsening health crisis.

"There's a lot of fatigue, absolutely. Health care workers, we get it, we have to fight. This is a battle. We have our call to battle again. This is another stage in the war against this disease," Torbati says.

Torbati says they are seeing more patients and hospitalizations now than during the first wave.

They are also seeing an increase in patients from long-term care facilities.

"Those are frail patients, typically older, typically with underlying medical conditions and when they get COVID-19, they don't just get minor illnesses - they get severe illness," Torbati says.

There is hope. The first vaccine from Pfizer is on its way. Cedars-Sinai has the specialized refrigeration equipment needed to store the vaccine. It will be one of the first hospitals in California to receive it.

"With a vaccine around the corner, that's giving us a real sense of hope and for health care providers, knowing that there's things we can do for patients, that gives us energy," Torbati says. "That gives us passion."

Torbarti says even as we see a better future we have to remember to stay safe now.

"Everyone at this point knows what to do, just follow the best practices and hang in there for another few months until we get through this together," Torbati says.
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