Coronavirus Bay Area: San Francisco hospitals prepare for possible surge in COVID-19 cases

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- UCSF hospitals are seeing more people with COVID-19 symptoms in the emergency room and with a rising trend of hospitalizations across the Bay Area, doctors are worried.

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If everyone wore a mask, Dr. Bob Wachter said California would squash the surge of new coronavirus cases it's seeing right now. The state is seeing new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations climb every day.



"We really need to be prepared to ramp back up quickly to the pre-COVID levels, so it is a concern," says Dr. Mary Raven, chief of UCSF's Department of Emergency Medicine.

They are now seeing about 20 patients show up daily with COVID-19 symptoms, while San Francisco-wide numbers of in-hospital patients have also been steadily increasing. ABC7 News analysis of hospitalization rates, show an increase in all nine Bay Area counties.


While hospitals prepared in March for the possibility of a surge that never came, they are having to stay alert, again.

"The notion of hospitalizations are not quite as scary as it was in March but we really do not want to have our hospitals overrun with patients with COVID," said Dr. Robert Wachter, chair at UCSF's Department of Medicine.

Wachter says he's looked at hospitalization rates in the Bay Area and believes if the trends continue, there's a real possibility that hospitals could become overrun.

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"This one feels like an unforced error," said Wachter of the rise in numbers.

Dr. Raven says UCSF hospitals are still prepared from the height of the crisis and will continue to be ready to respond.

"We will be ready if a surge does come, we were prepared even pre-COVID to increase our day to day staffing," she said.

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In addition, a 53-bed unit at Mt. Zion and a 30+ bed unit at UCSF on Parnassus are still available for use. Tents that were first erected in March outside her emergency rooms are also still equipped to handle possible COVID-19 cases.

"As soon as a surge hits, we will most likely convert those structures into units where we can care for respiratory functions," added Dr. Raven.

However, she is worried that there are not a lot of ICU beds to spare. Her advice, trust that hospitals are prepared but stay out of them.

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"We see in real-time people without masks and putting their guard down a little bit, everyone needs to maintain mask use, social distancing and handwashing."

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