'I'm really frightened about this:' San Bernardino County hospitals bracing for post-holiday COVID surge

As of this past weekend, the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in San Bernardino County reached its highest level at any time during the pandemic.
COLTON, Calif. (KABC) -- San Bernardino County has seen a huge spike in hospitalizations over the past few weeks as the coronavirus continues to push medical facilities to their limit amid a surge.

With numbers quadrupling in the last month, the county now has the second highest number of hospitalizations in the state behind Los Angeles.

As of this past weekend, the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in San Bernardino County reached its highest level at any time during the pandemic.

Dr. Troy Pennington at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton says he doesn't expect the numbers to plateau anytime soon.

"I'm really frightened about this, honestly," Pennington said.

So, what are they doing to keep hospitals from getting full?

As of last Friday, San Bernardino County has put in place a new policy giving paramedics more freedom to treat patients in the field, rather than bringing them in to a hospital unless necessary.

They're also administering a new monoclonal antibody to treat high-risk patients before taking them to a hospital.

"It's an IV infusion that's given in a period of about six hours total to get it done, but the hospitals have had a distribution of this medication," Pennington said. "We're also looking at being able to administer within our skilled nursing facilities and other areas in the county to try to prevent some of these higher-risk individuals from ultimately being hospitalized."

But he says there's likely no way around another surge.

"About 12 to 14 days after Thanksgiving, I think we're going to see, as everyone has been saying, another surge on top of the surge, so we really are getting frightened about what's going to happen to us in another month or so out," Pennington said.

Pennington says, overall, hospitals are still around 60 to 70% of total capacity, which is OK for now. But staffing is now the big concern.

"The problem is our staff is fatigued themselves. We've had some staff members that have gotten sick with COVID and now we've even had a couple of cases of staff members getting sick with the flu," Pennington said. "So, (we're seeing) a fair amount of burnout in the staff, on top of the fact that we don't have the luxury or the ability to pull from outside the area."
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