LA County hospitals seeing increase in COVID patients, but most not initially admitted for virus

Coronavirus hospitalizations are on the rise across Southern California, but officials say many of the patients are not initially being admitted for the virus.

According to state figures, there were 2,240 COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals as of Tuesday, a jump from 1,994 on Monday. Of those patients, 303 were being treated in intensive care, an increase from 278 a day earlier.

The hospitalization number is the highest it has been since last February in the midst of another winter COVID surge.

About two-thirds of patients who have tested positive for the virus at hospitals run by the L.A. County Department of Health Services were admitted for something other than COVID, Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly told the L.A. Times. They only learned they were infected after they were tested upon arrival.

Health officials say this latest surge in coronavirus hospitalizations is starkly different than what hospitals saw in earlier surges, especially before vaccines and boosters were made available.

During last winter's surge, more than 80% of COVID patients were in the hospital because they were experiencing severe illness from the virus, the L.A. Times reported, citing the Department of Health Services.

Ambulance wait times rising during pandemic in Los Angeles County
EMBED More News Videos

LA County is starting to see delays in ambulance response times to 911 calls, as more employees call in sick with COVID-19.

The rising hospitalizations numbers are still raising concerns over the stability of the hospital system.

"These hospitalizations of people with mild COVID... are significant because they put hospital personnel at risk and they also take a lot of space in order to keep them isolated," said Dr. Bradley Ackerson, infectious disease specialist with Kaiser Permanente. "That means that we can admit fewer people for other serious conditions like heart attacks and strokes so they do have an impact."

The county Department of Public Health on Monday urged residents to avoid visiting hospital emergency rooms unless they urgently need emergency care.

"Residents should not be visiting the emergency department solely to get a COVID test or for minor complaints that could be resolved through their primary care physician," according to the county.

City News Service contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2022 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved.