LOS ANGELES -- The ICU capacity in the 11-county Southern California region has dropped to 0% amid a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases, officials said Thursday.
California hospitals are required to report the total number of all available staffed ICU beds each day. Regional ICU capacity is calculated by subtracting neonatal and pediatric intensive care beds from the number of adult beds.
News of the diminished ICU capacity came as the state announced the deaths of 379 Californians, marking the highest number of fatalities in one day since the pandemic began and surpassing the previous record set the previous day.
New California COVID cases today
The state reported another 52,281 new cases of the virus, just 1,400 cases less than what California saw the day prior.
If California were a country, here's how it would rank based on Johns Hopkins' COVID-19 Daily Case Counts for Dec. 16:
1) USA 247,403
2) Brazil 70,574
3) California 53,711
4) UK 25,161
5) India 24,010
6) France 17,720
7) Italy 17,568
The 379 deaths are equivalent to a life lost every four minutes in a 24-hour span.
LA County COVID death toll rising
In Los Angeles County, about two people are dying every hour on average from the virus, something the county's public health officer called an "explosive and very deadly surge."
At Methodist Hospital in Arcadia on Thursday, frontline medical workers were among the latest to receive the COVID vaccination.
"We've had this huge surge, because of the thanksgiving holiday and people getting together. There's no other explanation for the surge," said Dr. Bala Chandrasekhar, the hospital's chief medical officer. "And so please don't repeat the something at Christmas time. Because if you get sick there will be longer wait times and there may not be an ICE bed for you because of staffing or because of no ICU bed. We may not even have beds available for non-ICU patients. "
According to the latest Los Angeles County data, 4,656 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Wednesday. That number has increased by nearly 1,000 in less than a week.
"If they need to be admitted we will keep them in the emergency room until a bed is available," Chandrasekhar said. "We are talking to all of our physicians to do early discharges for patients who can go home and get them out early in the morning so we can move them from the emergency room the the med surge rooms upstairs."
Even if hospitals add more ICU beds, most don't have the extra staff to help with the surge of patients.
"A lot of people are taking extra shifts but it's just -- it's getting overwhelming," said Samantha O' Neal, a nurse at Methodist Hospital. "Just a lot more patients are coming in and we're trying to do what we can do."
The Pfizer vaccine is being administered to primarily health care workers in the state.
The state is supposed to receive an additional 393,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine next week, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The current stay-at-home order expires on December 28th. With Christmas and New Year's Eve approaching, health officials are warning that there could be yet another surge of coronavirus cases.
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