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San Diego Hospital Staff Spread Thin, ICUs Nearing Capacity

Christa Jones, a nurse in the Sharp Grossmont Hospital intensive care unit, takes a moment to comfort a COVID-19 patient. April 20, 2020.
Zoë Meyers
Christa Jones, a nurse in the Sharp Grossmont Hospital intensive care unit, takes a moment to comfort a COVID-19 patient. April 20, 2020.
San Diego Hospital Staff Spread Thin, ICUs Nearing Capacity
Listen to this story by Jacob Aere.

Hospitals are filling up around the country, including in San Diego, with higher numbers of COVID-19 patients.

This surge is different from the beginning of the outbreak in March or the summer spike as COVID-19 hospitalizations have hit record highs, Dr. Christopher Longhurst of UC San Diego Healthcare said.

VIDEO: San Diego Hospital Staff Spread Thin, ICUs Nearing Capacity

“The surge that we are seeing now clearly is a much greater concern. We’ve hit over 700 hospitalizations in the county of San Diego and there's no end in sight, no plateau," he said. "Our modeling locally shows that we will exceed 1,000 or even 1,400 hospitalizations in the next several weeks."

The rise in hospitalizations has also put a strain on hospital staff.

“We’re stretching our staff thin. We know that our physician services are filling up and we are calling in overtime on our attending physicians,” he said. “So we are beginning to explore different elements of our surge plan that allow us to staff up in services, like hospital medicine where we can bring in other specialists to help.”

What's driving coronavirus surge? Check out the KPBS Trigger Tracker

Graphics detailing some COVID-19 related metrics that local officials use to inform their decisions are shown on Dec. 1, 2020.
KPBS Staff
Graphics detailing some COVID-19 related metrics that local officials use to inform their decisions are shown on Dec. 1, 2020.

Sharp HealthCare CEO Chris Howard said the biggest concern for hospital beds at Sharp are in the ICU.

“As of today we have 184 adult intensive care beds at Sharp facilities and 159, or 86%, of those beds are full,” Howard said. “We have had some facilities like Sharp Coronado that have had fully occupied days and others like Chula Vista that have approached it, currently sitting at 93%.”

RELATED: California COVID-19 Cases Foreshadow Hospital Stress

The plan at both UC San Diego Health and Sharp HealthCare for when their hospital systems get overwhelmed involves collaboration between different medical facilities in the region.

Sharp HealthCare previously helped coronavirus patients from Imperial County when hospitals in that area were overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, Howard said

“We have all shared our beds between our facilities with one another and we will continue to do so," he said. "I imagine Scripps, UCSD, Palomar and other facilities would all be viable candidates to help us, should we reach that point where we need additional capacity."

Gov. Gavin Newsom warned in a Monday news conference that a stricter stay-at-home order may soon be put in place to help provide relief for the state’s strained health care system.