Sacramento hospitals are filling up quickly as COVID-19 case rates across the county continue to rise. The surge has local health officials urging people to only go to the emergency room or use ambulances for “true emergencies only."
"The hospitals are at capacity now," Sacramento County Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said Thursday. "We are concerned about the status and the availability of both the general beds as well as beds in the intensive care unit."
Kasirye asked that people only use emergency rooms when absolutely necessary, and find other ways to do things like COVID-19 testing.
As of Thursday, 413 people in Sacramento County were hospitalized with COVID-19, and 106 were in the intensive care unit. During the winter surge, the county had a high of 130 patients in ICUs with COVID-19.
There currently aren't plans to open large mass treatment sites like early in the pandemic, Kasirye said, but patients could be moved to other hospitals in the region.
"One of the things that we could do, and we are working along with the state to try, and if there are additional people that need to be hospitalized to look for additional beds, which could mean having to transport them to another county," Kasirye said.
Some Northern California hospitals have been setting up surge tents to deal with the influx of COVID-19 patients. Hospitals from as far north as Crescent City to the Sierra foothills and Sacramento County currently have the tents.
Sutter, Dignity Health and Kaiser Permanente hospitals are using the temporary structures, and say they’re mostly used outside emergency departments to separate people with the virus and prevent transmission to other patients.
Dr. Brian Evans is CEO of Dignity Health’s Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital in Grass Valley. He said this strategy isn’t necessary during normal times.
“We’re clearly back in a crisis situation related to COVID-19 and the delta variant. It’s causing significant impact to hospitals across the region,” Evans said.
Evans, who is also president of Mercy Hospital in Folsom, said the majority of their hospitalized patients with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Similarly, Kaiser Permanente Northern California said over 85% of the COVID-19 patients in their hospitals are unvaccinated.
“The vaccines are the way forward for our community, and it certainly is what will help unburden the hospitals from taking care of these very large numbers of COVID patients,” Evans said.
Evans said it’s been harder to staff regional hospitals because of the high COVID-19 patient load, but also because nurses and other health care workers are exhausted.
Statewide, the number of people in ICUs is currently as high as last February, and has been sharply increasing, according to state health data.
Sacramento County has also seen a rise in deaths recently, with a larger percentage of younger victims than the winter surge, according to health officials. As of Thursday, 1,892 county residents have died due to COVID-19.
Kasirye said case counts in Sacramento County are starting to level off, but it's too soon to know if the surge, fueled by the delta variant, is winding down.
"It does look like we have reached a plateau, but there might be some delay in some of the reports," Kasirye said. "So we're still cautiously optimistic and still continuing to monitor what is going on."
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