COVID CASES CONTINUE TO CLIMB, ICU BED AVAILIBILITY DROPS

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By Miriam Raftery

December 8, 2020 (San Diego) – Nearly 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 (1,998) were reported yesterday in San Diego County, two days after an all-time record of 2,287 cases were found.  A month ago, cases hovered around 500 cases a day.  Equally concerning, the region’s ICU bed capacity has dropped to just 10.9% across all Southern California counties.

In San Diego County, intensive care unit (ICU ) bed capacity in hospitals is 24%, above the state’s 15% threshold for regions to shut down. That’s prompted objections from many San Diego County business owners and politicians over state health officials lumping our county in with others that have lower ICU availability and may be doing less to contain the virus, such as not enforcing masking and social distancing mandates.

But ICU beds aren’t the only measurement.  It takes specially trained nurses to staff an ICU unit, where critically ill patients may be placed on ventilators  and must be closely monitored.  Across the U.S., there is a shortage of medical personnel including ICU nurses, a shortfall compounded by medical personnel taking time off to quarantine or in some cases, ill after contracting COVID-19 themselves. That's resulting in some patients in critical condition from other illnesses or accidents being transferred hundreds of miles for care and has led to triaging of patients in some areas to determine who may receive ICU beds or ventilators, putting some vulnerable patients at higher risk.

The Regional Stay Home Order went into effect yesterday. It prohibits gatherings of any size with people from other households and adds restrictions for multiple sectors including limiting restaurants to take-out or delivery only, closing salons, playgrounds, zoos, and aquariums, and limiting retail to 20% capacity amid the holiday shopping season.

The order will last for at least three weeks or until the region’s ICU capacity meets or exceeds 15%. The order will be assessed by the state after the three-week period.

But some businesses have already posted intent to defy the order and stay open, including Jimmy’s Restaurant and Ranch House Restaurant in Santee.  Ranch House’s owner claims a “constitutional” right to provide for his family and employees, as well as cover rent, utilities, and insurance costs.  “I am wondering how this Governor is expecting me to pay for al these bills and put food on the table for my family if he is forcing me to close my restaurant and not allowing me to make a dime,” the restaurant’s Facebook page states.

Many have also faulted the U.S. Senate for failing to allow a vote to date on any new relief measures even though extended unemployment benefits run out this month and aid to businesses impacted by the pandemic has also expired. Even some who support shutdowns to flatten the COVID-19 curve say that if businesses are required to close, the federal or state government should provide more aid. 

The Governor did last week announce some new grants to help businesses, as well as temporary tax relief. (See ECM’s article for details.) The County also approved a new program to aid businesses and nonprofits in the hardest hit sectors. (See article on the county programs.)  But these may be too little, too late for some businesses after months of shutdowns or reduced capacity and sales diminished because some customers are opting to stay home.

The County also reported 87 community outbreaks in the past week, far above the trigger of seven, including six new outbreaks confirmed Sunday in business, healthcare, government and private residence settings.

People with and without symptoms who are at higher risk for COVID-19 should be tested. Health care and essential workers should also get a test, as well as people who have had close contact to a positive case or live in communities that are being highly impacted. Those recently returned from travel, or who participated in holiday gatherings, are also urged to get tested.

More Information:

The more detailed data summaries found on the County’s coronavirus-sd.com website are updated around 5 p.m. daily.

 

Miriam Raftery, editor and founder of East County Magazine, has over 35 years of journalism experience. She has won more than 350 journalism awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, San Diego Press Club, and the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Her honors include the Sol Price Award for responsible journalism and three James Julian awards for public interest reporting from SPJ’s San Diego chapter. She has received top honors for investigative journalism, multicultural reporting, coverage of immigrant and refugee issues, politics, breaking news and more. Thousands of her articles have appeared in national and regional publications.

East County Magazine gratefully acknowledges the Facebook Journalism Project for its COVID-19 Relief Fund grant to support our local news reporting including impacts on vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more: #FacebookJournalismProject and https://www.facebook.com/fbjournalismproject/.

You can donate to support our local journalism efforts during the pandemic at https://www.EastCountyMedia.org/donate.