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San Diego Hospitals Brace For Surge In COVID-19 Patients

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.
With cooler weather and holidays approaching, hospitals are bracing for a surge in COVID-19 cases that could exhaust medical staff and resources.

With COVID-19 cases rising in San Diego, local hospitals are preparing for an increase in patients as cooler weather and the holidays approach.

This increase is already noticeable at Scripps Health.

"Usually after a holiday, a couple of weeks later, we start seeing an increase," Scripps' chief medical officer Dr. Ghazala Sharieff said. "More concerning for us is that from yesterday to today, we had six more intensive care unit patients, and that's a flag for us.”

Although the uptick in COVID-19 cases is creating concerns, hospitals throughout San Diego say they are well prepared to take care of new patients and haven't seen the need to tap into additional resources.

What is triggering closings? Check out the KPBS Trigger Tracker

VIDEO: San Diego Hospitals Brace For Surge In COVID-19 Patients

“We're feeling very comfortable," Dr. Christopher Longhurst with UC San Diego Health said. "We have plenty of capacity to care for patients who need our care at UC San Diego.”

This feeling could change, Longhurst said, if the public does not follow the state guidelines that have already slipped San Diego back into the more restrictive purple tier.

“We’re very worried about the holidays because with the prevalence of disease increasing and people planning to get together in unmasked settings for holiday dinners," he said. "It could become a perfect storm that puts us in a COVID hell."

A federal field hospital set up at Palomar Medical Center Escondido for the expected surge in COVID-19 patients, April 23, 2020,
Andi Dukleth
A federal field hospital set up at Palomar Medical Center Escondido for the expected surge in COVID-19 patients, April 23, 2020,

In April, San Diego County selected Palomar Medical Center in Escondido as the site for a federal field hospital with 202 beds, should San Diego hospitals reach capacity.

This is a resource that Palomar Health CEO Diane Hansen said is available but has yet to be needed.

“We haven't had to use it," she said. "And quite honestly until the county makes the decision that we need to open up those beds, it will remain closed.”

In order to avoid over-taxing the hospital system, health officials are urging people to use face coverings and follow state guidelines.

San Diego Hospitals Brace For Surge In COVID-19 Patients
Listen to this story by Tania Thorne.
The San Diego VA is making access to mental health care harder for local veterans, outraging therapists who say the agency’s actions are dangerous and irresponsible. Meanwhile, San Diego hospitals are bracing for a surge in COVID-19 cases that could exhaust medical staff and resources. Also, Supervisors are taking action, approving more funding for an income replacement program.