San Diego County sees increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations
Speaker 1: (00:00)
COVID 19 cases are once again, on the rise in San Diego county as is the demand for testing in a meeting today with state governors, president Biden said more needs to be done to make sure tests are available,
Speaker 2: (00:13)
Seeing how tough it was for some folks to get a test. This weekend shows that we have more work to do, we're doing
Speaker 1: (00:19)
It. And with the holidays of pons, chances are you or someone, you know, has stood in line for a test or tried to purchase a home kit in an effort to stop the spread and still see family and friends responsibly here. Now to help us understand how San Diego is faring with testing and the current surge we're joined by Chris van Gorder, the CEO of Scripps health.
Speaker 3: (00:38)
Speaker 1: (00:39)
Good morning. Well, thank you so much for are joining us. So what are we seeing in terms of COVID cases in San Diego county currently?
Speaker 3: (00:46)
Yeah, we saw a sudden increase in hospitalizations literally in the last four days to, to give you some sense of it. One month ago, uh, November 27th, uh, we had 75 COVID hospital hospitalized patients in our healthcare system. On the 23rd. We had 80, um, on the 24th Christmas Eve, we jumped by 18 admissions on the 25th Christmas day. We jumped by another 20 admissions and yesterday, um, we jumped by another 16 admissions. So literally from the 23rd, we've gone from 80 admissions to 119 admissions. So that's a huge increase and we're seeing the same been testing on the 23rd. We jumped to 26% positivity rate, which is a huge positivity rate on the 25th. It was about 25% and yesterday about 19%. So dipping a little bit that could surge again tomorrow. So we're seeing a sudden increase in positivity. Uh, we're also seeing a very, uh, significant increase and hospitalizations just in the last few days.
Speaker 1: (01:44)
When is your modeling showing a peak in hospitalizations? Yeah,
Speaker 3: (01:48)
Our projections actually showed in a, um, a surge in majority of January and then probably a little bit of a flattening and dipping after January. Um, you know, we had predicted, I had predicted even that we would see the sudden surge actually the week between Christmas and new year. So I was one or two days off. Um, but, uh, yeah, we're gonna see a sudden increase. Um, we will not see hospitalizations. Like it was a year ago, a year ago on January 8th, we had 500 patients in the hospital. We're, we're not gonna see that kind of, of hospitalization rate, uh, because of vaccinations. But, um, but what, we won't see it dip again probably until late
Speaker 1: (02:25)
January. Do you have any idea of how many of the new cases are due to Amicon or what's actually driving this surge? We
Speaker 3: (02:32)
Don't have those numbers yet, but I would tell you, you know, my speculation on this is a majority of Aron. Um, it's so highly infectious. Um, it's, uh, clearly probably the dominant or variant already in this county, but I don't have those statistics yet. Those usually follow
Speaker 1: (02:48)
How is AMN different from Delta?
Speaker 3: (02:50)
Well, it's certainly far more infectious than Delta was. There is some speculation we don't know for sure that a majority of the cases will be milder than Delta, but, um, I'm not sure that there's scientific proof to that yet, but that's what we're hoping for. But I will tell you, seeing this sudden increase in hospitalizations, uh, has this concern without a doubt
Speaker 1: (03:10)
To that end scripts has previously reported having staffing shortages. Is that still the case? And do you think it's gonna possibly impact your to meet the need?
Speaker 3: (03:20)
Every hospital has staffing shortages right now, there's a huge amount of burnout, uh, fatigue, uh, that, you know, our, our people have been fighting COVID every day for the last two years. Um, and, and we're seeing that as a national trend, that's just not a San Diego trend and it's certainly not just ACRIS trend. We'll try to find a way obvious of meeting our community's need, but it will, it will be stretching resources without
Speaker 1: (03:43)
A doubt. Have you had to implement any kind of new plans in order to, to meet it currently? Well, what
Speaker 3: (03:48)
We will have to do is monitor our activity, our surgical activity and elected admissions. So if the census, uh, gets much higher than this, obviously we may have to slow down a, on other hospitalizations. And I, I, I think you're aware that there is a huge blood shortage right now. Anyway. Um, I think that's driven by not as many people donating blood, uh, and, and normally this time of the year, there's a decrease in blood donations. So that's already impacting, um, us on, on everything from the trauma side to the elective surgery side. So we're deeply concerned about a shortage of blood. And obviously we're concerned about an increase in COVID, um, hospitalizations.
Speaker 1: (04:27)
As I mentioned off the top, a lot of people are looking to get tested during the holiday season. Is scripts seeing a huge spike in these type of requests for tests?
Speaker 3: (04:36)
No, I wouldn't say that we're seeing a huge increase. I think the county is providing really significant resources to be able to do a lot of testing. So, um, I, you know, we haven't seen a spike in the test, but I would imagine if we see the positivity rate continue in this direction, we will see an increase in
Speaker 1: (04:53)
Testing. If people are having trouble getting a rapid test, what would you recommend that they do
Speaker 3: (04:58)
Well, if they have symptoms, you know, they need to contact their, you know, healthcare provider and the healthcare provider can arrange for them to get a PCA test or something like that. Um, if they're, you know, asymptomatic, um, you know, the best thing to do is shop around, call around to CVS and Walgreens and all of those to see if they have a supply. Um, one day they may be out the next day, they may have a supply coming in and, and, uh, with the, the president's pledge to be able to make, uh, testing available. Um, I think that they, we will see a sudden increase in the supply somewhere in January, probably not until mid to late January, but I think we'll see it in January, but right now I get that call all the time. Um, we obviously can do a PCA test in the hospital. You can go to the county, um, and get a test. It will not be around test. Um, and then it's just a matter of looking around and shopping to find the, uh, the over the counter test at this point,
Speaker 1: (05:49)
As we've seen more people try and get tested, and we're seeing this increased surge, are you also seeing an increased demand for people looking to get their boosters during the holiday season?
Speaker 3: (05:58)
Not as much as we would like. Um, we certainly saw right when boosters were made available. Um, we saw an increase obviously in, in people wanting to get the boosters for the first time, and then it seemed to drop off a little bit. Um, and then of course, as people prepared for, uh, traveling over the holidays, we saw a slight priest, uh, and people wanting to get boosters, but we are concerned that, um, we haven't been able to give as many boosters as we really would like right now. And it really is important for everybody to not only have their, their, you know, first, uh, J J shot, um, with a, a booster of, of one of the other shots probably, or, uh, with a two, uh, dose Erna and Pfizer getting that third, uh, booster that's really, really important with Alro in
Speaker 1: (06:41)
Particular emits all this news. We did get a little bit of good news last week. The FDA provided emergency authorization of Pfizer's new oral COVID 19 treatment. What do we know about this new drug? Well, we knew
Speaker 3: (06:53)
That it is an ambulatory drug so that it may help it's an antiviral. And so, um, our, our actually spoke with our pharmacy people today and, and they're, uh, gearing up for that, uh, now as well. So we don't have the drug yet, but we should shortly for, um, patients certainly in the hospital. And then, uh, it will be available I'm sure in January for people with a prescription. So that will help as an antiviral, similar to what Tama flu did for influenza. Um, so we're hopeful.
Speaker 1: (07:22)
And as we come up on new year's Eve, what advice can you give to listeners to really stay safe?
Speaker 3: (07:27)
Well, you know, it's the traditional advice. Um, certainly get your vaccinations. That is the best protection. Um, many of the people with vaccinations will probably see a mild case of, uh, COVID, uh, those without, uh, vaccinations take a much, much higher risk of serious illness and potentially hospitalizations. I will tell you that, uh, by far a majority of the patients in the hospital were not vaccinated. And a majority of the people who have have died, uh, were not vaccinated. So the advice first, number one, get that vaccination. Number two, if you've been vaccinated, make sure you get that booster. Uh, number three, wear that mask. Um, you know, we have regulations right now that require masking indoors. Again, I would wear a mask most of the time right now and not, not the cloth masks, a single layer cloth mask will do you no good whatsoever. You need to wear a surgical grade type mask or multi-layered cloth mask, uh, or something more significant than that, um, to protect ourselves. And I, you know, I've been out a little bit in the community, not as much as many people are, and I'm seeing an awful lot of people not wearing masks. So vaccination and masking is the best protection
Speaker 1: (08:36)
I've been speaking with Chris van Gorder, the CEO of Scripps health. Thank you so much.
Speaker 3: (08:40)
The number of San Diego County residents hospitalized with the coronavirus increased from 332 to 355, while the number of those patients in intensive care declined from 94 to 92, according to the latest state figures.
Those numbers come three days after local health officials reported 2,336 new cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths associated with the virus. The county is still waiting for its first doses of two medications, intended to treat the virus.
Thursday's data increased the county's cumulative totals since the pandemic began to 405,705 infections and 4,442 deaths.
The increase in infections and COVID hospitalizations, in late December, is being clearly seen at one San Diego health system.
“Literally from the 23rd we’ve gone from 80 [hospital] admissions to 119 — so that’s a huge increase,” said Chris Van Gorder, CEO of Scripps Health. “We’re seeing the same in testing.”
While hospitalizations are increasing, with millions vaccinated this will be a different winter than last.
“We will not see hospitalizations like it was a year ago,” Van Gorder said. “A year ago on January 8th We had 500 hospitalizations, we’re not going to see that kind of hospitalization rate because of vaccinations.”
RELATED: 3 nurses give their inside story on how omicron is affecting the country
RELATED: 3 nurses give their inside story on how omicron is affecting the country
The county Health and Human Services Agency does not report COVID-19 data on weekends or holidays, so no updates were provided Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency use authorizations for two new oral antiviral medications to treat COVID-19. However, supplies of these medications "will initially be very limited and San Diegans should continue to mask up this holiday season to prevent infection,'' a statement from the county health agency said.
The county expects its first shipment of Pfizer's Paxlovid in the next few days. A second oral antiviral, Merck's molnupiravir, is expected to start arriving in the region soon afterward, according to the HHSA.
A prescription will be required for either drug. Both drugs are to be taken over several days in pill form. Both will be available to patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 symptoms who are at risk of progressing to severe coronavirus disease, including hospitalization or death.
"The FDA's emergency use authorization of these new oral antivirals comes at a critical point in the pandemic as we see an increase in cases and a rapid spread of the Omicron variant,'' said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. "However, news of the arrival of these drugs does not mean we can let our guard down.
"We need to continue to mask up, especially in crowded indoor spaces, and I urge anyone who has not gotten vaccinated, or is overdue for their booster shot, to get vaccinated as soon as possible," she said. Once the new drugs arrive in the region, they will initially be distributed through about two dozen pharmacies, pre-selected by the California Department of Public Health. The amount each pharmacy is receiving is "based on community impact from the pandemic."
RELATED: County reports 2,336 new COVID-19 cases as new medications on the way
The state and county will expand distribution to more pharmacy locations as supplies increase.
A total of 31,504 new COVID tests were reported to the county on Thursday. A total of 7.4% of all tests returned positive for the virus over the previous week.
As of Wednesday, more than 6.03 million doses of the three vaccines now available had been administered throughout the San Diego County region. More than 2.75 million county residents — around 87.4% of all those eligible — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. More than 2.44 million San Diegans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, representing roughly 77.7% of eligible residents.
In addition, 683,780 booster shots have been administered in the region.