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'The Data Is Headed In The Wrong Direction;' San Diego Health Care Systems React To Rising COVID-19 Cases

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.

Local health care systems are seeing an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations that they say could be stemming from Memorial Day weekend.

"This last week has been pretty disturbing. We’ve certainly seen an increase in the number of hospitalized patients with COVID," said Dr. Christopher Longhurst, the associate chief medical officer for UC San Diego Health.

Longhurst said Thursday that the recent increase in hospitalizations at UC San Diego Health follows weeks of increased positive test results.


"So our increase in hospitalizations looks likely to be related to Memorial Day weekend. That was around the time of a lot of reopening, a lot of community-acquired cases and they are now being hospitalized with increasing illness," Longhurst said. "So our hope is that this weekend for the 4th of July, people will wear masks, stay safe and distanced. We don’t want another surge occurring in two weeks."

RELATED: San Diego County Crosses 15K COVID-19 Cases, Will Be On State Watchlist Friday

VIDEO: COVID-19 Hospitalizations Rising In San Diego County

Through predictive analytics, UC San Diego has found that when we see an increase in cases now, hospitalizations follow weeks later.

"When we see an uptick in cases, we then see the uptick in hospitalizations. And one to two weeks following hospitalizations, we'll see an uptick in intensive care requirements and ventilator usage," Longhurst said. "And one to two weeks after that, unfortunately, we tend to see an uptick in deaths."

UC San Diego Health is not alone in seeing an increase in hospitalizations relating to COVID-19.


Sharp HealthCare officials said they too are seeing an increase, although it is not as high as in months past. Across the county, Sharp has about 77% of its intensive care unit (ICU) beds being used, but only about 25% are for COVID or suspected COVID patients.

A spokesperson for Sharp says earlier in the pandemic they had more than 130 positive patients in the hospital. As of Thursday, that number was 102 patients, 43 in ICU beds.

Since late June, Scripps Health has seen its number of COVID hospitalized patients rising. They had 90 people on June 20, and 125 on June 27. Thursday's count showed 113 COVID patients using hospital beds at Scripps facilities.

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Kaiser Permanente in San Diego is also seeing an uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

"Most notably we see an increase in a younger, less acute population," a Kaiser spokesperson said by email Thursday. "We remain confident in our ability to provide care to all our members."

In contrast, Tri-City Medical Center officials said they have not noticed an uptick.

"The number of COVID-19 positive inpatients in the medical center has remained relatively consistent for a number of weeks, ranging between 11 and 22 on any given day," a spokesperson for Tri-City said by email Thursday. "We currently have moderate availability within our intensive care unit."

Palomar Health officials said as of Wednesday they had 26 COVID-19 positive patients in hospitals, 8 in the ICU. A spokesperson for Palomar Health said they have 48 ICU beds available between their two hospitals.

Palomar Health also houses a 200-bed federal field hospital site that was set up in late April. A spokesperson said there is no talk of opening it soon, and ultimately county health officials will make the call when or if it is needed.