The capacity of hospital beds and intensive care units could soon become a concern in the Inner Empire, where coronavirus cases continue to grow in two Southern California counties with the second and fifth highest reported cases in the state .
In all Riverside County hospitals, ICU beds have been 99% occupied since Sunday, spokesman Brooke Federico said, an increase of 19% in the past two weeks. Only five empty ICU beds remain in Riverside County.
Of the 380 ICU patients in Riverside County, 28% are confirmed COVID-1
Overall, county hospital beds are currently 63% occupied. This means that hospitals have the flexibility to convert some of those empty beds into intensive care beds based on their surge plans, which is what hospitals plan to do next week, said Federico.
In nearby San Bernardino County, ICU beds occupy 89%. County spokesman David Wert said he cannot immediately provide further information.
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Governor Gavin Newsom on Sunday asked both counties of the Inner Empire to order the closure of bars to stop the slow spread of the virus. The counties in mandatory closing order are Los Angeles, Fresno, San Joaquin, Kings, Kern, Imperial and Tulare.
Imperial County, an agricultural region of approximately 182,000 people on the northern side of the California-Mexico border, reported a week ago that its ICU beds were fully booked. This week Newsom urged the Imperial County to “withdraw” and restore its stay order at home as cases rise to a level not seen anywhere else in the state.
What we know about Riverside County’s soaring plans
In Riverside County – which has approximately 2.4 million people, according to the U.S. census – there are nearly 3,400 hospital beds in 17 hospitals, according to 2018 data from the California Office for Health Planning and Development at state level.
Riverside County has 1.4 hospital beds per 1,000 people, lower than the national rate, which is 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people, according to a ProPublica analysis.
Of those 17 hospitals, Coachella Valley is home to three acute care hospitals, including Eisenhower Health in Rancho Mirage; Regional Desert Medical Center in Palm Springs; and JFK Memorial Hospital in Indio. The latter two are part of Tenet Healthcare, a national health conglomerate.
Mike Mesisca, director of emergency medicine and catastrophe for the Riverside University Health System, previously told The Desert Sun that he had teamed up with all acute care hospitals in the county at the start of the pandemic to guide them through the plans for an increase. An acute care hospital is one that provides hospital care for short-term illnesses and other related services such as surgery. Now, hospitals have to lean on those increase plans.
“There are several trigger points at various times, but the first step is that hospitals create additional capacity within their beds,” said Mesisca.
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Once hospitals have reached the point where their intensive care units are capable, then it is expected that they will convert some of their normal beds into intensive care beds by bringing necessary equipment such as additional fans.
Without enough fans, it doesn’t matter how many beds each hospital has when it comes to providing assistance for the most severe coronavirus cases. However, only 32% of Riverside County’s 510 fans have been in use since June 26.
Both counties are already on the state checklist
Both counties of the Inner Empire have been on the “Targeted Commitment” state checklist since mid-June.
The state added Riverside County on June 17 due to its increase in cases and hospitalizations. The county failed to meet acceptable parameters for three consecutive days for four different state standards.
As of Sunday, these are the metrics reported by Riverside County, according to its public health department and the California public health department:
- Coronavirus cases: Riverside County has confirmed 152 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the past two weeks. Acceptable state guidelines are 100 cases per 100,000 people or fewer in that time frame.
- Positivity rate: The county test positivity rate over the past seven days was 10.6%, which is higher than the state’s 8% standard.
- Availability of ICU beds: Currently only 1% of ICU beds are available. The state requires that 20% or more of ICU beds be available in the county.
- Test rate: The county conducted approximately 144 coronavirus tests per day per 100,000 residents on average over the past week. The state recommends counties to test 150 people a day for 100,000 county residents.
While Riverside County has reduced its overall hospitalization rate to an acceptable level in the past two weeks – one of the original metrics that the state has reported – has started to move towards an unacceptable increase in intensive care bed use during the same period of time, depending on the state.
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“We continue to remind the public how to protect themselves and their loved ones by slowing the spread of the disease,” said county spokesman Federico. “First, put on the facings. When everyone wears facials, the transmission can be reduced by up to 90 percent. Second, keep your six-foot distance from others who don’t live in the same family. Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds. Finally, visit only the places that are taking steps to protect their visitors, customers and employees. “
San Bernardino County has been on the state’s checklist since June 21. As of Sunday, these are the metrics reported by the county, according to its public health department and the California public health department:
- Coronavirus cases: San Bernardino County has confirmed about 140 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the past two weeks.
- Positivity rate: The county test positivity rate for the past seven days was 10%.
- Availability of ICU beds: About 19% of ICU beds are currently available.
- admissions: The number of hospitalizations in the past three days has increased by 19%. State guidelines state that counties should not exceed 10%.
- Test rate: The county performed approximately 135 coronavirus tests per day per 100,000 residents on average in the past week.
Desert Sun journalist Nicole Hayden takes care of health in the Coachella Valley. She can be reached at Nicole.Hayden@desertsun.com or (760) 778-4623. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_A_Hayden.
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