Riverside County could see 2,000 coronavirus hospitalizations by January

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- Though Riverside County doctors view the COVID-19 vaccine as a beacon of hope, they emphasize the region still remains in crisis.

Friday morning at Riverside University Medical Center, 35 frontline workers got vaccinated. The hospital received a little over 1,900 doses in a shipment that arrived on Thursday.

Like many other hospitals in the region, this medical center is struggling with the number of COVID patients. Officials say the hospital has implemented a surge plan by adding 18 more beds and transferring pediatric patients to other hospitals to make more room.

Among those vaccinated today were doctors, nurses and housekeeping staff, who work directly with COVID-19 patients. Many of these frontline workers said they signed up to get the vaccine for the safety of their family, and because they've witnessed the toll the virus has taken on patients' lives.

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"I've never seen so many code blues, all in one shift." Dr. Raman Dhillon saved 10 code-blue patients in one morning at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, one of the hardest-hit hospitals in the nation.

"I know someone, it hit me close to home. He is literally in my home. And I'm so grateful that he is well. He is home. He still occasionally has some effects of it, but overall he's back to normal. But on the other hand, I come to work and I see all of these patients who are not surviving and doing poorly," said Dr. Nikki Mittal.

"You know, we've received the first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine, which is very encouraging, and we hope that will sort of be our exit for the pandemic. But all that being said, we are also in the most challenged of times that we've ever seen for the county," said Dr. Geoffrey Leung.

Currently, Riverside County's positivity rate is at 20%. Thursday, the county reported a record 8,000 new COVID-19 infections. Hospital officials say at this rate, they could see about 2,000 hospitalizations by next month.

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Riverside County recently recorded 8,000 new COVID-19 cases within a span of just 24 hours. The continuing surge has more people than ever looking to get tested.

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"It's a critical time, and we felt so strongly that without our nursing partners, patients' lives would be at risk undoubtedly." Riverside County ICUs are now at 100% capacity with a nurses strike looming. Doctors at one hospital are begging the nurses not to walk off the job.

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With many intensive care units already at maximum capacity in the Inland Empire, doctors are warning that an increase in cases after Christmas and New Year's could be catastrophic.

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