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County Reports 2,807 New Cases As ICUs Crowd With COVID-19 Patients

Diego Varras, an employee of Kaiser Permanente San Diego, receives a COVID-19 vaccine at Zion Medical Center. Dec. 16, 2020.
Kaiser Permanente San Diego
Diego Varras, an employee of Kaiser Permanente San Diego, receives a COVID-19 vaccine at Zion Medical Center. Dec. 16, 2020.

San Diego County public health officials are under pressure Thursday following Wednesday's reported 2,807 new COVID-19 infections — the second highest daily total — along with 23 deaths as the number of intensive care patients continues to climb.

Yesterday's reported cases are second only to Friday's 2,867 and follow Monday's 1,863 cases. Wednesday marks the 16th consecutive day with more than 1,000 cases.

The county's cumulative case total has risen to 114,248 and the death toll has risen to 1,217.


The national death toll crossed 300,000 on Wednesday.

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

Video: San Diego County Officials Concerned Healthcare System Could Become Overwhelmed Because Of COVID19

A jump of 39 hospitalizations and five newly admitted ICU patients have officials concerned. With 301 COVID-19-positive patients in area ICUs Wednesday, that number passed the total patients without the virus — 282 — for the first time in the pandemic.

San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said hospital CEOs told him doctors are postponing serious medical treatments such as tumor removal and organ transplant to free up ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.

The number of hospitalizations also set a record Wednesday, with 1,171 coronavirus patients in regional hospitals.

Fletcher said the impact of group gatherings during Thanksgiving was clear and asked county residents to temporarily avoid joining with family and friends over the upcoming holidays.


The county's hospitals have 16% of their ICU beds available, unchanged from Tuesday.

The state estimates the ICU bed availability in the 11-county Southern California region at .5%, down from 1.7% on Tuesday.

RELATED: California Virus Surge Brings Field Hospitals, Body Bags

In the San Joaquin Valley, ICU beds are full. The Greater Sacramento region has 14.1% of ICU beds available and the Bay Area 12.9%.

Only Northern California remains outside the Gov. Gavin Newsom- directed stay-at-home order with 29.8% of ICU beds available. That order applies to regions with fewer than 15% ICU beds remaining.

San Diego County has seen a 227% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the past 30 days and a 155% increase in ICU patients in the same time frame.

The previous peak in hospitalizations — mid-July — topped out at about 400 patients.

Supervisor Greg Cox on Wednesday asked for patience from county residents, as more vaccines were on the way.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve a different vaccine by Moderna to join the 28,275 Pfizer vaccines already in the region available for civilian acute healthcare workers.

San Diego County is home to 82,623 healthcare workers toiling in acute hospital or psychiatric facilities, 39,755 of whom are considered "highest risk" and will receive vaccines first.

The 28,000-plus vaccines will cover about 72% of those slated to be inoculated until more vaccines arrive in California.

Brittanee Randle, an emergency room nurse at Rady Children's Hospital, was the first non-military San Diegan to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday. UC San Diego Health began administering vaccines Wednesday morning to emergency department, custodial staff and some of the nurses who, in early February, were the first to care for patients with a novel coronavirus who had been transported from Wuhan, China.

"I came to the hospital to help out during the start of COVID-19, back when we first had patients from Wuhan," said Dr. Marlene Millen, chief medical information officer and an internal medicine primary care physician at UCSD Health. "Walking up to the hospital that morning, I had no idea what lay in store."

"In the months since, all that we've had to deal with, personally and as health care workers, has been tremendous. We're all working very hard and doing our best. I'm excited to start offering this vaccine to our health care team members, and hopefully very soon to our patients. This means the end might finally be in sight," Millen said.

Naval Medical Center San Diego received an unspecified number of vaccines Monday, with front line medical workers and essential mission personnel — such as EMS, firefighters and gate personnel — receiving the first dose of the vaccinations Tuesday.

Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton took a portion of those doses for personnel north of San Diego and administered first vaccines Wednesday.

Six new community outbreaks were reported Wednesday, four in childcare settings, one in a business and one in a healthcare setting. A community setting outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households over the past 14 days.