Coronavirus: ER doctor says trend just beginning for Orange County as hospitalizations spike

About 60% of the more than 6,000 hospital beds in Orange County are occupied.
ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. (KABC) -- Orange County has seen a 9.4% increase in hospitalizations over the last 3 days. It's been a trend for the last couple of weeks.

"For Orange County specifically, I would say we're in the top of the 2nd inning. I mean, this is just the beginning. We've heard about it all over the country, but it's real now for us in Orange County," said Dr. James Keany, a doctor in the emergency department at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo.

Although they've seen an increase in COVID-19 patients, he says they've been able to manage it all inside the hospital. If they surpass 12 patients at any given time, they'll have to start using the triage tent outside.

"Nobody knows what the future holds, but I can tell you, we're on a trajectory for a serious surge at this point. I mean we're definitely seeing a huge increase in numbers. We probably have four times the patients in the hospital now than we did a week ago," Dr. Keany said.

Right now, about 60% of the more than 6,000 hospital beds in Orange County are occupied. If that changes, along with a number of other factors, the Orange County Health Care Agency tells us they would move to crisis care, urging hospitals to modify operations like cancelling elective procedures again or staffing surge beds.

Over at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, they're also ready to adjust, but the surge has them needing plasma.

"We need people who have had the infection and gotten past the infection to donate plasma that contains these important antibodies that can neutralize the Covid virus," said Dr. Arell Shapiro, medical director of clinical lab and transfusion service at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach.

There's more research that needs to be done, but Dr. Shapiro says they're hopeful it will help patients as it did with Ebola.

"I think it's a really important thing to do and I know there's a lot of people out there that are looking for ways to help. This is a great way," she said.

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A spokesperson for Providence says its three Orange County Hospitals are prepared for an escalation of cases, working from lessons learned in the four months since the pandemic hit Southern California. We're told they have fine-tuned protocols for triage and treatment, increased supplies of PPE and devised methods for ensuring the safety of everyone in the hospitals.

Kaiser Permanente Orange County says it fortunately did not undo all the preparation work it undertook in the last couple of months to brace for the worst. They say they are in a position to identify and manage potential hot spots and surges of patients seeking high-level care for COVID-19.

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