San Diego County sees another rise in COVID-positive hospital patients
Speaker 1: (00:00)
Last weekend, San Diego county hit a record with nearly 50,000 new COVID cases from Friday through Sunday, while the surge continues, hospitals around the county are experiencing staff shortages. As the virus spreads among healthcare workers in response, the California department of public health issued new guidance for healthcare workers who test positive for the virus lowering their required isolation time. Before returning back to work, the president of the California nursing association told NBC seven, the new guidance could make things worse,
Speaker 2: (00:32)
Putting COVID positive, you know, workers back into the workforce just leads to more. Cross-contamination not only for our patients, but for our coworkers as well. And then we're gonna have an even worse situation on our hands.
Speaker 1: (00:44)
Joining me now to discuss the recent surge and how hospitals around the county are being affected is KPBS health reporter, Matt Hoffman, Matt. Welcome. Hey
Speaker 3: (00:53)
Jade, how you doing? Great to be here.
Speaker 1: (00:55)
So this is a new record for the county. What do you think is causing this surge? We've got this highly contagious Al on variant, but we also just came off the holidays.
Speaker 3: (01:04)
Well, we know that it's definitely, AMN, that's driving this surge and a lot of gatherings on new year's probably did not help. We heard, uh, state officials, local health officials asking people not to gather. And if they do to do things like open up windows and open up doors for ventilation, um, it's really unclear how many people did that, but we a ton of people flocking out to testing sites, not only over the Christmas holiday, but also over the new year's holiday. And now we're seeing more people going back to those testing sites after they had exposures. Um, but we know that Amron is driving this and we know that state officials have been testing the wastewater data across the state. Um, and they say that AMN has been found in most regions of California. Um, and they say that their data is consistent with the CDC data that reports that about 95% of all these new cases are OCN. So we know that Omicron is definitely driving the surge and likely gatherings, uh, stemming from the holidays
Speaker 1: (01:56)
Are most of these cases from people who are UN vaccinated or are we seeing positive cases among both the vaccinated and unvaccinated pop?
Speaker 3: (02:04)
The most cases definitely are coming from the UN vaccinated, you know, just in San Diego county, the county sort of reports that, you know, the case rate for not fully vaccinated residents is about three times higher than those for fully vaccinated residents. Now, uh, I'm sure, you know, people who are listening, um, they've talked to people that have, uh, you know, been fully vaccinated, even been boosted and, and they've, they've still caught the virus. We are seeing a lot of breakthrough cases, but a lot of the breakthrough cases, health officials, um, you know, wanna stress, uh, are usually people who are asymptomatic or people who maybe just seems like they have a cold. Um, and a lot of these people that are ending up in the hospital, uh, majority of them are UN vaccinated. So officials are saying, Hey, look, this is sort of preventable. So go out there and get vaccinated.
Speaker 1: (02:44)
Our hospitalizations also still on the rise
Speaker 3: (02:47)
Hospitalizations are on the rise and they've been rising, you know, pretty much since Thanksgiving and the, if you look at the graph, there's a sharp line going up. Um, right now we're sitting at about in San Diego county, just over a thousand people in the hospital with COVID 19. Now, if you look back to this time a year ago, that sounds like a lot. Uh, we had about 1700, 1800 in the hospital during this, uh, last winter surge that we had last year. And that was in vaccines. We're just starting to roll out. And officials are, you know, sort of crediting vaccines for keeping people out of the hospital. Now we know Macron. They say, if you're UN vaccinated, it's gonna find you. Um, and it could send you to the hospital. Another thing health officials are closely monitoring is the number of ICU positive patients.
Speaker 3: (03:28)
Um, and we know that right now in San Diego, we have about 166. Um, and if you remember back, you know, when there were some of those stay at home orders and everything, um, they were really stressing, you know, ICU bed availability of the people, you know, who are the worst off because of this virus. Um, we're at 166 now. Um, and during the peak last year we had about 450 people who are hospitalized in the ICU with COVID. So those numbers are a lot down, you know, hospitalizations are up at ICUs, you know, not as high as hospitalizations.
Speaker 1: (03:57)
We know a lot of hospitals are shorts staffed right now. What's being done to relieve that issue.
Speaker 3: (04:03)
Yeah. We're hearing from a lot of local health systems that, um, you know, sort of during this time, you know, back in the early pandemic, people would say, you know, I'm hearing all these cases being reported, but I don't know anybody who's sick. Well, I bet a lot of people listening now, you know, whether it be themselves who may have been exposed, they probably know somebody a close relative or, or family member that's been sick. Um, and that same thing extends to the healthcare systems, especially when these people are working directly with these patients. Um, and we know how transmissible auto Macron can be. So a lot of staff are catching ALN and they're having to call out to prevent exposure. Um, and we've seen, you know, some institutions, hundreds of employees, uh, going out on unscheduled leave, um, and the hospital systems they've sort of been preparing for the, this, but basically what that could mean is cutting back on other elective surgeries, um, basically planning, uh, they say to ration care. And
Speaker 1: (04:48)
As you know, the state is now weighing out in order to cancel elective surgeries with the shortage of specialized healthcare workers, as COVID cases, surge has San Diego, uh, been affected by this at all.
Speaker 3: (05:00)
Yeah, definitely. You know, they've been looking at rationing care for a while and we know that, you know, during the last winter surge, there was a lot of stuff that was put off. Um, and we're seeing that again, but I don't think it's happening in large numbers. Now, if the state does decide to pass this order, that's being reported that says no elective, uh, surgeries, then that would obviously cancel, uh, all elective surgeries in the state. I would make a lot of people, uh, but the hospitals are saying, Hey, look, we just need some breathing room here. Um, also worth noting too. Um, when we talk about, you know, how are health facilities dealing with the people, um, that are coming down with the virus, uh, the state issued some new guidance that you touched on there in the intro that was a little bit controversial, uh, basically saying, you know, healthcare providers who test positive and are asymptomatic, they can, and return to work immediately without isolation and without testing. Um, and that's where you're seeing the pushback from the union saying, Hey, wait, if somebody's positive, um, and they're going back into work, aren't they just gonna infect more people? Well, we've heard from hospitals saying, you know, planning for the worst means having workers go in who are sick,
Speaker 1: (05:59)
You know, how are local businesses and schools being affected by this surge
Speaker 3: (06:03)
Schools are definitely being affected a lot. We're seeing a lot of kids that are having to call out, um, because they have COVID. Um, and it's something that's not just affecting schools, it's affecting local businesses. Um, you know, I'm sure if even if you drive around town, if you're looking to order or some businesses have had to close, you know, whether it just be for a few days or even a week, uh, to sort of catch back up as employees are calling off because they have OCN. Now we know that there's an indoor mask mandate for businesses. You know, it's not necessarily being as strictly followed as it was before, but I think a lot of business owners are sort of wary and wondering, um, if restrictions are gonna come back, you know, we saw when we had the color coated tier system, red, orange purple, uh, whatever it was that limited indoor dining capacity, uh, stopped indoor dining altogether made it outdoor only. So, uh, business owners are definitely on edge right now.
Speaker 1: (06:49)
A and do you think the surge is going to continue over the next few weeks?
Speaker 3: (06:53)
You know, when we were talking to healthcare officials, they were saying, you know, some of the hospitals that there are own individual modeling, uh, showed the peak of this, you know, hospitalization increase in the case increase, um, happening, you know, around January 20th or so, somewhere around there. So, um, if that still rings true, then we're not out of the woods yet. You know, we have another week or two, uh, as, as we go on the incline, but we should be coming down here at some point. Um, keep in mind some of the tests that the county were reporting, those record cases, uh, were for some backlog tests, but they say even with the backlog tests, that we're still hitting records,
Speaker 1: (07:26)
What can people do to protect themselves during this
Speaker 3: (07:29)
Time? You know, we heard from the county public health officer, Dr. Wilma Wooten, you know, that we're in the middle of this unprecedented surge, where we're seeing so many cases, also something to note to Jade, all the cases that we're seeing, you know, 22,000 cases reported on one day, that's only people that go out to testing sites and that actually get that PCR test. So, you know, if you're following the guidance where you have a rapid test, you take it at home, it's positive, you have symptoms, you stay at home, you write it out. You're never gonna go in and get, uh, an official PCR test. So you'll never be counted. So is likely thousands of more people that have COVID that are just not going in and being counted because they're doing rapid tests. Um, and the guidance has not changed. Um, they're asking people, you know, please, if you're not vaccinated, go out there and get vaccinated. And we know, you know, that immunity WANs from these vaccines. So if you got vaccinated, um, they're asking you to go out there and get boosted because your level of protection, just not very high, uh, if you don't have that booster,
Speaker 1: (08:22)
I've been speaking with KPBS health reporter, Matt Hoffman, Matt, thank you very much for joining us.
Speaker 3: (08:27)
COVID-19 related hospitalizations in San Diego County increased by 73 to 1,061 Tuesday, an "unprecedented pace" that follows a record- setting weekend where hospitals struggled to keep up.
Hospitalizations have increased at a steeper rate than when the county reached its peak — 1,725 on Jan. 11, 2021, according to the latest state figures.
Of the hospitalized patients reported Tuesday, 166 were in intensive care, down two from the previous day. The number of available ICU beds increased by four to 187.
According to state data, COVID-19 hospitalizations have more than tripled in the past 30 days, from 325 to 1,061.
Some COVID-19 positive patients may have been hospitalized for other reasons and had their COVID-19 status discovered by hospital-mandated tests.
A total of 12,563 new COVID-19 cases were reported by the county Monday, along with 17,507 on Sunday and 19,009 on Saturday. The previous daily high in cases was 8,313 on Jan. 2.
The county Health and Human Services Agency reported the record numbers — a third of which came from reporting delays — as local hospitals are "struggling with staffing amid hundreds of their employees contracting the virus and being unable to report to their shifts," a statement from the agency read.
There are nearly 600 health care workers at UC San Diego Health out sick because of COVID-19, CEO Patty Maysent said. Additionally, the number of children testing positive for COVID-19 at Rady Children's Hospital set a record Monday, according to Dr. John Bradley, the director of infectious diseases at the hospital.
"We expected to see a surge after the holidays, especially with the arrival of the more transmissible omicron variant, but these numbers are unprecedented in this pandemic," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. "The virus is everywhere in our community. We must all step up now and re-dedicate ourselves to the precautions that we know work."
Wooten reminded residents that the omicron variant can be dangerous or deadly, despite what she said is a common misconception.
"Hospitalizations are increasing amid this current surge and it's important to understand that hospital admissions are a lagging indicator," she said. "We expect hospital admissions to increase even further in the coming weeks as people who are currently ill develop more severe symptoms."
To help alleviate the strain on local hospitals and prepare them for the expected surge in admissions, the HHSA recommends that only people needing emergency care should go to a hospital emergency department.
Additionally, at this time, COVID-19 testing should be reserved for those at higher risk of serious illness and people who need it the most. People should not go to an emergency department for testing with no or mild COVID-19 symptoms, she said.
The county reported no deaths Monday, and its cumulative totals increased to 525,754 cases while the death toll remained at 4,500.
A total of 46,571 tests were reported Monday, and the seven-day average positivity rate was 27.3%, up from 25.4% on Thursday.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday unveiled a proposed $2.7 billion COVID- 19 emergency response package as part of his next budget proposal, including a $1.4 billion emergency appropriation request to bolster testing capacity, accelerate vaccination and booster efforts, support frontline workers, strengthen the health care system and "battle misinformation."
On Friday, Newsom announced the activation the California National Guard to help provide additional testing facilities and capacity amid the national surge in cases driven by the omicron variant.