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article imageCOVID-19 cases overwhelming ICUs and morgues in California

By Karen Graham     Jan 9, 2021 in Health
Friday was the worst day yet for COVID-19 fatalities in California, as well as in Los Angeles County. The coronavirus surge this winter has deepened beyond the point of overloading hospitals and is now also threatening to overwhelm coroners.
California's Office of Emergency Services announced Thursday that it has launched two new mutual aid plans “to address the fallout from the overwhelming number of cases California is now facing and that is continuing to climb.”
A part of the two plans calls for a multi-casualty plan and a coroner mutual aid plan. To that end, California OES says it is procuring 88 refrigerated trucks that will be distributed across the state to be used as temporary morgues, according to the Sacramento Bee.
California recorded 676deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, including 318 in Los Angeles County. The figures easily top the previous single-day records: 575 deaths in California and 291 in L.A. County, both set on New Year’s Eve.
Friday's record came on the one-year anniversary of L.A. County’s first health alert concerning the coronavirus, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The alert, 12 months ago, describing an “outbreak of pneumonia of unknown etiology in Wuhan City, China" has turned into a year of the world experiencing the “most significant infectious disease” of the last century, said Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
“The scale of the tragedy associated with this pandemic is unfathomable — even more so because so much of it was preventable,” Simon said during a briefing Friday.
Hospitals overwhelmed
At one hospital in Orange County, Reuters is reporting that ambulances are lined up waiting to get patients into the Intensive Care unit, while patients fill the hallway of the Emergency Room.
In Los Angeles County, coronavirus patients are dying at a rate of one every eight minutes. “When we get filled up with COVID patients, we can’t take care of the community in general,” said Dr. Jim Keany, 54, the managing partner for emergency physicians at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo. “Every bed is full, every nurse and doctor is occupied taking care of COVID patients.”
As for refrigerated trucks being used as temporary storage for the dead, the L.A. County Coroners Office will be getting 10 morgue trailers, in addition to 12 set up there in April, said spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
We are "watching a tsunami approach"
The current wave of coronavirus cases in the state is expected to peak in about a week to 10 days, according to a trade group that represents California hospitals. And even though hospitals are already overwhelmed with patients and ICU beds are in short supply, it will get worse.
“We do anticipate the worst of this is to hit in another week or 10 days and may continue into the month of February,” said Carmela Coyle, president, and chief executive of the California Hospital Association.
“This has been unprecedented for our state, unprecedented for the nation, unprecedented for the world,” she said during a conference call. “But we find ourselves today, in terms of the numbers, at a point where we are standing on a beach and watching a tsunami approach.”
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