Riverside County first responders detail front-line battle against COVID-19 amid spike in hospitalizations

As Riverside County experiences a surge in hospitalizations, first responders describe the front-line battle against COVID-19 that is quickly intensifying.
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (KABC) -- For first responders at Cal Fire Station 71 in Riverside County, the emergency calls have been constant amid the surge in hospitalizations the region is seeing.

ABC News' Kaylee Hartung joined paramedics there for an inside look at their front-line battle and how one community hospital has been stretched to its limit.

For paramedic Bill Titov, he is one of the first through the door equipped with personal protective equipment when Cal Fire Station 71 gets a call.

He hasn't seen his family in 10 days. His station in Palm Desert is one of the busiest in the country.

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A federal team of doctors is on the way to Rancho Mirage as Riverside County deals with a surge in hospitalizations.

Every day they respond to coronavirus-related emergencies, rushing patients to Eisenhower Health in Rancho Mirage where as of Wednesday night, there were three beds available in the intensive care unit.

ABC News was there as they rushed a patient with COVID-19 symptoms to the hospital.

Dr. Alan Williamson, the hospital's chief medical officer and vice president of medical affairs, said they're "close" to a breaking point.

"If we exceed capacity, something has to give, and the quality starts to suffer," he told ABC News.

A nurse in the COVID-19 unit says the pace is grueling.

"They come in faster than we're able to discharge," she said. "And unfortunately, these patients turn very quickly."

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The CDC director said Wednesday that he's fine with the change - even though some experts fear it will further sideline the agency.

When asked if there might come a time when they will have to turn COVID-19 patients away, Williamson said "That's what we're definitely trying to avoid."

A federal team of doctors is on the way to Eisenhower Health. The team made up of military medical personnel consists of roughly 20 people.

ABC News contributed to this report.
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