Central California overwhelmed by Covid spread ahead of Thanksgiving | California
Before the Thanksgiving holiday, California Officials are sounding the alarm about the winter wave of Covid as hospitals in some parts of the state remain overwhelmed with patients, despite overall progress.
California’s coronavirus infection rate is among the lowest in the country, but the burden of infection remains unevenly distributed. In central California, a region that has struggled with resistance to masks and vaccines throughout the pandemic, a strained public health system has been pushed over the edge. Hospitals this week have overcapacity and officials are seeking to move more patients out of the area for treatment in Los Angeles.
“We’re running like crazy,” said Rachel Spray, a nurse at Kaiser Hospital in Fresno. “The calling lights go off, the alarms go off. We just don’t have the resources.” She said that the hospital’s emergency room, intensive care unit, Corona virus spread areas and the tent are not enough to accommodate the large increase in the number of patients. “It’s not slowing down.”
“Hospitals are constantly exceeding 100% of capacity,” said Dale Dotson, area EMS operations coordinator, at a news conference Friday, in Fresno County. As a result, ambulances are stuck outside emergency departments and patients are left waiting for hours or even days to get a bed.
Fresno’s public health system and the rest of California’s agricultural Central Valley have been pushed to the brink during the pandemic, even as other parts of the state saw the crisis ease in the summer and fall. Only 55% of Fresno’s residents are fully vaccinated, compared to 63% statewide.
While visiting a vaccination clinic in San Francisco, California Governor Gavin Newsom urged residents to get their coronavirus vaccines before the weekend, and urged caution despite an overall decline in transmission across the state. “Countries are struggling because people are taking heed or claiming mission accomplished,” he said. “I don’t want to see that happen here in California.”
California isn’t the only western state experiencing an alarming outbreak ahead of the holidays. In Colorado, pockets of vaccination resistance and disguise helped fuel a wave that has pushed hospitals to crisis levels. Although the vaccination rate in that state is similar to that of California, the rate of transmission in the community is among the highest in the state, and 95% of intensive care beds in use. Denver and other parts of the state have reissued indoor mask requirements that were lifted over the summer.
In Central California, resistance to public health measures including masks has risen throughout the pandemic and the region has seen the highest support for a Newsom recall due to pandemic-era restrictions.
Meanwhile, agricultural workers in California’s Central Valley—many of whom lack legal status and easy access to medical care—remain most at risk. The rate of Covid-19 positivity among farm workers in California is four times that of the rest of the country, according to Report Published in the magazine Open Gamma Network earlier this year. “The area we live in, is a high-poverty area. There is a lack of access to medical care. People have more comorbidities,” Spray said. “And that leads to an increased chance of people getting sick.”
Staff shortages and overwork among health workers have added to the strain on the region’s medical system. As many as nine patients were assigned at one time, said Brittany Smith, the center’s surgical nurse, “which is unheard of.” State guidelines recommend one nurse for every two ICU patients and every five surgical patients. “We’re basically in a crisis situation,” Smith said. “We are forced to work in absolutely unsafe conditions.”
“Due to business challenges affecting other local hospitals, we are accepting additional patients to ensure our community has safe and uninterrupted care,” said Krista Deans, a hospital spokeswoman. “To support our care teams, we have exercised all the options available to us.”
Hospital nurses joined a union in September.
Spray said the medical staff was exhausted and “morally demoralised”.
We want to provide the best care for every patient. She said. She added that ahead of Thanksgiving and the holiday shopping season, she’s preparing for the worst and pleading with patients to wear masks indoors and get vaccinated.
“Between now and next year, we could have a very difficult winter,” said Rice Vohra, Fresno County’s interim health officer, at a news conference. “Grow up on turkey and beef broth but also don’t forget to fill your mental and spiritual flexibility.”