By Miriam Raftery
Photo courtesy of Governor Gavin Newsom’s office
January 8, 2022 (San Diego) – With hospitals locally and statewide overwhelmed by a surge in patients with the Omicron variant of COVID-19, Governor Gavin Newsom yesterday announced he has activated the National Guard to support local communities with testing.
Locally, both Scripps and Sharp Healthcare, which owns Grossmont Hospital in East County, have announced surges at their emergency rooms and asked that most patients get tested elsewhere.
A statement from Sharp Healthcare today requests, “If you do not have COVID symptoms, have not had an exposure, or are under the age of 65 with no underlying health issues, please visit a County of San Diego testing location of consult other community resources for testing options. If you need to be tested due to a confirmed exposure, please visit one of these options offered by our community and health care partners, to be tested sooner.”
Omicron now accounts for at least 80% of COVID-19 cases in California. At Scripps Health, 14.5% of the workforce in all Scripps hospitals and clinics were off on unscheduled leave, largely due to being ill with COVID-19 or in quarantine after exposure. That forced non-emergency inpatient surgeries at Scripps La Jolla to be postponed and a surge tent to be set up in the parking lot, 10 News reported on January 4. Scripps asked the public to avoid seeking COVID tests at emergency rooms or urgent care if they have no symptoms or only mild symptoms.
“California has led the country’s fight against COVID-19, implementing first-in-the-nation public health measures that have helped save tens of thousands of lives,” Gov. Newsom said. “We continue to support communities in their response to COVID by bolstering testing capacity.”
Over 200 National Guard members will be deployed initially to add capacity, help with crowd control, and fill in for absent staff members while many medical personnel are quarantining or have COVID. More National Guard members will be deployed next week to further aid beleaguered healthcare systems around the state.
This new action adds to the existing 6,000 testing sites set up statewide, the expansion of hours at state-run testing sites, and 9.6 million tests distributed by the states to schools since early December.
To date, California has administered almost 67 million vaccination doses and over 122 million tests. In recent months, Measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our state include first-in-the-nation vaccine and masking measures requiring that workers in health care settings be fully vaccinated, announcing plans to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of vaccinations required to attend school in-person when fully approved, requiring masking in schools and implementing a standard that all school staff and all state workers either show proof of full vaccination or be tested.
To help slow the spread of COVID-19, state and county health officials encourage Californians to get vaccinated, get booster shots (now available five months after a second Pfizer or Moderna shot or two months after the Johnson and Johnson vaccine), wear a mask indoors and get tested if sick.