Surging Coronavirus Cases Cause L.A. County Hospitals to Reject Ambulances

Doctor Ali Jamehdor, Chief Director of the Emergency Room of the Dignity Health - St. Mary Medical Center, stands in front of a Covid-19 triage tent for patients with symptoms in Long Beach, California, on December 17, 2020. - Over the last two weeks, the number of new Covid-19 cases …
APU GOMES/AFP via Getty

The crisis at Los Angeles County hospitals reached unprecedented levels over the holiday weekend as patients continued to flow into emergency rooms.

The medical system is bracing for a second wave of coronavirus spread stemming from Christmas travel and holiday gatherings. Los Angeles County’s overall coronavirus death toll is expected to pass 10,000 this week, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“It’s a crisis — there’s no doubt about it,” said Memorial Hospital Chief Executive Kevan Metcalfe. “And they just keep coming.”

Hospitals are so full of patients that they are forced to place patients in gift shops and conference rooms, the Los Angeles Daily News reported.

People wait in line to get a Covid-19 test at a testing center in Los Angeles, California. – The situation has grown severe across southern parts of California, which was praised for its response at the start of the pandemic in spring, but which has seen Covid-related hospital admissions soar sixfold since mid-October. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Even though hospitals are coming up with creative ways to manage space, many facilities just do not have the space for patients and are forced to turn incoming ambulances away.

On Sunday, 94 percent of L.A. County hospitals that accept patients stemming from 911 calls had to turn ambulances away.

“But soon, there won’t be any places for these ambulances to go,” said Dr. Christina Ghaly, the L.A. County health services director. “If every hospital is on diversion, then no hospital is on diversion.”

The number of people with coronavirus in L.A. County’s intensive care units has broken records for 16 days straight, increasing to 1,449 on Sunday, the most recent data available.

The county has also been testing to discover if a more contagious strain of the coronavirus coming from the United Kingdom has spread to Los Angeles County amid a surge in cases.

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