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San Diego medical officials warn ICU’s nearing capacity

A grim warning from local medical officials that hospital ICU’s are nearing capacity comes a day after Governor Newsom announced a region-wide order.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, California — Seeing a surge in Covid-19 cases, Scripps Health CEO Chris Van Gorder paints a grim picture.

“Our Encinitas ICU is at 125% capacity, meaning we’ve already had the surge at that campus and at our La Jolla Chula Vista hospitals, we’re at 92 percent,” Van Gorder said.

 Van Gorder says on Friday there were 771 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across San Diego County.

Sharp hospitals have the most at 300 COVID-19 patients, Scripps has nearly 200 and Palomar had 63 patients.

“If we continue in this direction, we will exceed the ICU capacity in the community. In total we’re 84% full already with a combination of COVID patients and non-COVID patients,” Van Gorder said.

Governor Gavin Newsom’s regional stay-at-home order will trigger when a region’s ICU capacity falls below 15 percent. Van Gorder says Southern California could hit that 15% target as early as this weekend.

UCSD Dr. Jess Mandel says all the hospitals in the region are really scrambling to make sure that they can meet the needs of the community in the weeks ahead.

“The numbers we are seeing now are higher than anything we’ve seen in San Diego up until this point, and the numbers are still going up,” said Mandel who has been with UCSD for 16 years and now serves as the Chief, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine in UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Dr. Mandel says it takes a highly choreographed maneuver to get ICU beds ready and spread out for safety. “It’s not as simple as just putting a bed and a ventilator in there. We need to make sure the staffing is adequate, and the training is adequate.”

UCSD health started testing all employees for COVID-19 weekly. The Scripps CEO says hospitals are strained over the lack of staffing.

“Our employees are getting sick, because of community spread. Two weeks ago I had 44 of my employees test positive for COVID, and last week about 22 tested positive so they’re going to be out of work for a while,” Van Gorder said.

With mutual aid systems in place for decades, Van Gorder applauds the Governor’s regional order, he just wishes it could’ve been in place sooner.

“I personally wish they would have done it before Thanksgiving because the surge we’re seeing now is a result of Thanksgiving travel and events, and we’re going to start seeing an even larger number of patients get admitted to our hospitals over the next 2 to 3 weeks right before Christmas,” Van Gorder said.

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