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'It is absolutely clear there will be a 5th surge' | How the COVID pandemic is affecting San Diego hospitals

Medical leaders from hospital systems in San Diego shared their information about the challenges they are facing in the fight against COVID-19.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif — The City of San Diego COVID-19 Response and Recovery Committee held a meeting Monday with medical leaders from four major hospital systems in San Diego to discuss the impact and current status of the pandemic on San Diego hospitals.

Just before the meeting began, Councilmember Marni von Wilpert announced that she has tested positive for COVID-19. Wilpert said she is fully vaccinated, but is showing symptoms. She said she is recovering at home and encourages everyone to get vaccinated.

During the meeting, medical leaders shared their information about their collaboration and the challenges they are facing in the fight against COVID-19.

Some of the topics discussed during the meeting included the following: 

  • How misinformation is contributing to challenges in treatment; 
  • How San Diego hospitals collaborate to save lives; 
  • What kind of public polices can help hospitals from being overwhelmed; and
  • The State of California mandate that hospital employees be vaccinated.

Chief Information Officer and Associate Chief Medical Office at UC San Diego Health, Christopher Longhurst, made it clear that morale is down.

"I can't tell you how burnt out many of our team members are -- as the first and second surge presented we talked about the vaccine that arrived in mid-December and really broadly in January being not only a shot of vaccination immunity but also a shot of a morale boost and there was a lot of excitement and a sense that we were going to get through this. Now, that we're hospitalizing 700 San Diegans again with the bulk of those being unvaccinated, it's really striking our team members to be quite difficult," Longhurst said.

Longhurst said looking ahead, he's concerned because staffing issues have been a problem and health care workers are stretched thin.

"It is absolutely clear there will be a fifth surge -- period. So we are expecting a winter surge and unfortunately we talked about this last year about being concerned about a "twindemic" of both flu and COVID. We did not see it last year because of the sense of masking that was in place, but we're worried this year that we will see, with reduced public health measures, both COVID and flu making a resurgence at the same time," Longhurst said. 

Longhurst said he expects that fifth surge to begin in late November and peak in January. He also told the committee that he would like to see a mask mandate in place for anywhere indoors and for people to be required to show proof of vaccination for indoor dining and gyms.

WATCH RELATED: FDA panel to discuss COVID-19 vaccine booster shots (Sept. 16, 2021)