Skyrocketing corona virus cases are causing high demand for Bay Area hospitals, and some districts fear they could exceed capacity in the next two or three weeks, especially if there is a further increase in cases after Thanksgiving, public health officials said Friday.
These stern warnings came as San Francisco officials said early next week, perhaps Sunday, that they expect the city to land in the state’s most restricted purple layer. This will put the city under California’s new curfew order and force it to close almost all internal operations.
The weekly new cases of the corona virus have tripled in the past month, San Francisco Department of Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colefax told a news conference. If the current upsurge continues unhindered, the models suggest, “we could keep hundreds of people in the hospital in late December or early January.”
Dr. Sarah Cody, health officer for Santa Clara County, reported 407 cases on Friday, which is higher than any other time of the year, and hospital admissions have increased by 50% in the past week. If that growth rate continues, the county will have more than hospital capacity in about three weeks, he said.
“Cancel your holiday plans,” Cody said during a news conference. “The choices we each make over the next two weeks may indicate the difference between having enough hospital capacity and not enough to take care of all of us.”
Daily corona virus cases have doubled in the past month across California and the Bay Area, and have crossed 10,000 cases four times a week this week – no peaks from the heights of the summer uprising. 13,422 cases were reported Thursday in California.
This wave is more than just a summer surge. The growth rate is already steep, and thanksgiving alone will lead to a more dramatic increase in cases over the next two weeks. Public health officials are increasingly urging people to stay home during the holidays.
The latest curfew order is an attempt to curb some of that activity. Public health officials say a complete lockout, in place of a new shelter, is still a way out.
“We have the potential to drown out our local health system … and force us to relocate,” Colbox said.
Once San Francisco retreats to the purple floor, indoor activities such as museums, movie theaters, gyms and places of worship will close within 24 hours. The curfew order, which requires non-stop operations from 10pm to 5am, will come into effect two days after the move to purple.
The new restrictions include a ban on indoor community gatherings, which are currently allowed for a maximum of three homes. If the new restrictions assume land before Thursday, it will force Thanksgiving meetings – which the city has strongly encouraged anyway – outside.
As of Friday, 41 of the 58 California counties, nearly 95% of the state’s population, were in the purple layer. Government Gavin Newsom Monthly curfew order issued For all Purple Districts on Thursday, it comes into effect Saturday at 10 p.m. There are currently six purple layers in nine Bay Area districts.
Public health officials believe the curfew order, along with other efforts to encourage people to gather or communicate outside their homes, will help reduce the rate of new infections and prevent hospitals from becoming overcrowded – something that the Bay Area could manage in the past. Even when the hospital in the Bay Area rose to 800 in July, there was still plenty of capacity.
Just as cases explode at an unprecedented rate, so do hospitalizations. Hospital numbers are 10 to 14 days behind in cases, so the new infections now announced have not yet affected the health care system.
As of Thursday, 511 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the Bay Area, and 4,755 in the state. Both numbers were up 40% from the previous week. Intensive care numbers rose about 35% to 139 patients in the Bay Area and 1,240 on Thursday.
Health care providers say hospitals are already overcrowded than they were in the spring and summer, aside from the expected increase in COVID-19 patients. Hospitals are trying to catch patients who have delayed care during epidemics, and at this time they have advised people not to stop their chosen procedures or to postpone regular appointments.
Dr. Ahmed Kamal, Director of Health System Production, Santa Clara County, said that with COVID-19 “we are certainly concerned about hospitals starting from a place of high use and joining with it.”
Dr. Juan Maldonado, an epidemiologist at Stanford, said the medical center was “nowhere to be overused” at this time. But he is concerned about the increase in patients not only from COVID-19, but also from influenza and other seasonal respiratory viruses. Like Kamal, he noted that the hospital already has less capacity than the previous year.
“Many of us are starting to brush up on our uprising plans that we withdrew in March, and are starting to look at the opportunity to see more events,” Moldonado said.
Bay Area public health officials are not alone in California in worrying about the need for hospitals. This week, Los Angeles County officials announced hospital-based gates that would trigger new public health restrictions. About 1,400 people were hospitalized Thursday in Los Angeles. If hospital admissions exceed 1,750, the county will suspend outdoor meals. If they exceed 2,000, the county will offer a new accommodation.
Leading healthcare providers said they were watching with concern as hospitals in other parts of the country were filling up and wondered if it was their turn. The Bay Area has avoided violating its hospitals twice before in previous hospitals – they hope the area can do it again. But UCSF’s emergency room doctor Dr Jahan Bahimi said the shares are feeling higher now.
According to the federal report, ten states currently report the highest hospital admission rates, meaning that those with COVID-19 make up more than 15% of all patients. Dozens of districts across the country need to open non-hospital sites to move less dangerous patients and accommodate sick people in intensive care.
In some places health care providers have been told to continue working even after testing positive for the virus.
“If other states and other places are by no means a premise for what we are, it looks worse than the first and second methods,” Bahimi said. “It’s a warning that the Bay Area, and especially San Francisco, has performed so well compared to these other places. I hope we perform even better. But that doesn’t mean it will be better.”