By Jonathan Goetz
Photo: ICU medical worker, via Bing
December 13, 2020 (California) – The San Joaquin Valley region in Central California, comprised of Calaveras, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare, and Tuolumne counties, had zero available ICU beds, as of Saturday, 16 days after Thanksgiving. Only one day prior, according to the California Department of Public Health, that figure had been 4.5%.
The Southern California region's ICU availability is at 5.3%, according to ECM News Partner 10News.
At this rate, San Diego and Los Angeles may have no ICU availability as early as Tuesday.
ICU capacity is not measured by open beds, but by available, staffed beds. California has strict nurse to patient quotas. This is especially necessary in the advent of COVID-19, to keep nurses, doctors, patients, and their six degrees of separation, safe. Availabiltiy can be reduced not only due to patient surges, but a shortage of medical professionals, such as if many are off duty due to contracting COVID-19 or being quarantined.
Many recent cases have been tied to people who attended Thanksgiving gatherings, though worship services, restaurants, schools, offices and other venues have all been responsible for recent outbreaks locally.
According to Dr. Patricia Iris, in San Joaquin, those afflicted by COVID this year's first surge of cases were 75% Latino. Many farmworkers, working in brutal heat or cold, must work even while sick. These are the people who keep our food supply in American borders and subject to U.S. safety standards. In what some call the bread-basket, the undocumented have no other choice than to work, especially those ineligible for unemployment benefits and/or the $1,200 stimulus.
COVID-19, begins with symptoms similar to the common cold, but unlike a cold, may quickly worsen and attack one's organs including lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, and brain. One differentiating symptom is that many COVID-19 patients loses their sense of taste and smell, though this is usually temporary. In patients lucky enough to survive, it can cause permanent organ damage, even occasionally in some people who showed no symptoms initially. Some patients also experience blood clots and strokes.
Lodi is a City in northern San Joaquin County, the square middle of the region. Lodi Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Pat Patrick signed a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom, according to Associated Press (AP), to lobby against Newsom's recent safety orders including shutdowns of some business sectors. Patrick said, “There's just no rhyme or reason to some of these things and certainly no data.”
But others believe the health mandates are warranted to buy time and prevent needless deaths, especially now that the FDA on Friday approved the Pfizer vaccine. The first doses, for healthcare workers at risk and people in nursing homes who are still well enough to travel, are expected to arrive this week in California. Additional doses will be rolled out based on risk, with the elderly and front-line workers next in line. By approximately April, the vaccine is expected to be available for all Californians.
According to AP, Chuck Davis, CEO of data science company Bayesiant which tracks COVID data in San Joaquin County that includes Lodi, concluded, “It's like we see the train coming down the track and we're telling people, and some people listen and get off the track and other people get on the track and start dancing.”
Jonathan Goetz co-hosts our East County Magazine Radio radio show on KNSJ 89.1 FM, along with Miriam Raftery. He also provides sound editing for our program and assists in our Zoom productions. In addition, Jonathan is a freelance reporter. He loves exploring East County's mountain and desert communities and won a first place travel award from San Diego Press Club for his coverage of the Anza-Borrego region. He has also been honored for community reporting, sharing a breaking news award from Society of Professional Journalists for our team's coverage of the Alfred Olango shooting by a police officer in El Cajon. He holds a bachelor's degree from Devry University in technical and sustainable management.
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/.
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