LA County health officials say hospitals continue to be slammed with COVID-19 patients

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County health officials on Wednesday continued to sound the alarm over the coronavirus, issuing a dire warning to the public that while hospital admissions have leveled off slightly, medical centers are still overwhelmed.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county's public health director, says given the high rate of the transmission, slowing the spread of COVID-19 will take longer.

"During the summer surge, one in 10 people who tested were positive. Today, one in every four or five people getting tested is positive," she added.

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With hospitals slammed with a critical level of patients, EMS units in L.A. County are being told not to transport those with a low chance of survival.

L.A. County on Wednesday reported another 258 deaths due to COVID-19, bringing the overall death toll to 11,328. The county is also confirming another 11,841 cases of COVID-19.

County Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly said hospitals continue to be slammed with COVID patients.

"The number of new patients with COVID-19 requiring hospitalization each day in Los Angeles County has increased markedly in the past few weeks, but it's now appearing to level off somewhat," she said. "This likely reflects relatively less transmission in a period after Thanksgiving and the first couple of weeks of December."

But she warned that leveling off is not a cause for celebration, noting that hospitals will soon begin seeing an anticipated swell of patients caused by gatherings over the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

Meanwhile, Ferrer says coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise.

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It's a health care nightmare right now in LA County. With resources so scarce, hospitals have to focus on patients who have the highest chance of survival.

"Hospitalizations are likely to increase for at least three weeks to come, and deaths will also remain disturbingly high," Ferrer said.

Since the latest surge began in November, L.A. County is seeing an increase of more than 945% in daily new cases. According to the state, there were a record-high 8,098 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the county as of Wednesday, including 1,628 in intensive care units.

The county Department of Health Services reported Wednesday a total of 44 available ICU beds in the county, only about half of them adult ICU beds. There were 573 total non-ICU beds available in a county of 10 million people.

Ferrer urges the public to follow the health guidelines to slow the spread.

"For the small number of people who are either not getting the message or who are actively choosing to disregard it, we ask that you step up and start doing the right thing this month," Ferrer said. "This is a health crisis of epic proportions."

The L.A. County Public Health Department says of the 185,250 doses of the Pfizer vaccine received, 100,556 doses have been administered to frontline health care workers at acute care hospitals.

Ferrer expects vaccination rate will increase as more sites open in the county. This week, there are 18 vaccination sites open across the county for frontline health care workers with appointments.

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The vaccine rollout and efforts to immunize frontline workers continues at local medical centers.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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