Coronavirus patients in California’s ICU beds double overnight

Tribune Content Agency

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The number of coronavirus patients in California’s intensive care unit beds doubled overnight, rising from 200 on Friday to 410 on Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

The number of hospitalized patients testing positive for the coronavirus that causes the disease known as COVID-19 rose by 38.6% — from 746 on Friday to 1,034 on Saturday, Newsom said.

“We’re blessed that we’re just at 410, devastating for the individuals there and their family members and loved ones,” Newsom said at a news conference in Sunnyvale on Saturday. “But by comparison and contrast to other parts of this country, that number seems relatively modest.”

California has reported more than 115 deaths and more than 5,500 cases of coronavirus around the state as of Saturday. Los Angeles County has seen 32 deaths and more than 1,818 cases; the second hardest-hit county in California, Santa Clara County, has seen 25 deaths and 591 cases.

A Los Angeles Times data analysis found that California has 7,200 intensive-care beds across more than 365 hospitals. In total, the state has more than 70,000 beds. The Times data analysis shows roughly one intensive-care bed for every 5,500 people in California.

About half of California’s total intensive-care beds — 3,700 — are in the five-county area around Los Angeles, according to data from 2018, the most recent available. In the nine-county Bay Area, there are roughly 1,400 ICU beds for a population of 7.6 million people.

Intensive-care beds allow for a higher level of treatment than regular beds, a level of care serious COVID-19 patients have needed. Those unable to breathe properly may need a breathing tube inserted into the throat and to be hooked up to a ventilator, which physically pushes oxygen into the lungs.

State officials are working on adding more hospital and intensive care unit beds to handle the surge in coronavirus patients. There is concern that without action, the state could be short tens of thousands of hospital beds needed on the epidemic’s worst day.

Newsom on Saturday also said the federal government sent Los Angeles County 170 ventilators that arrived “not working,” and now a Silicon Valley company is fixing the equipment.

California and other states have been stocking up on ventilators in anticipation of a shortage at hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first-term Democrat said he learned about a problem with the federal government’s ventilators when he visited Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Friday.

“And rather than lamenting about it, rather than complaining about it, rather than pointing fingers, rather than generating headlines in order to generate more stress and anxiety, we got a car and a truck,” Newsom said.

“And we had those 170 brought here to this facility at 8 a.m. this morning, and they are quite literally working on those ventilators right now.”

Mechanical ventilators are essential to treating patients critically ill with COVID-19. The virus officially called SARS-CoV-2 can infect the lungs and cause people to be unable to breathe properly; it can also cause inflammation in the lungs. Fluid can leak into lung tissues and can drown some of the lung’s tiny air sacs, preventing them from delivering oxygen to the blood.

Those who are critically ill from the coronavirus can suffer from respiratory failure, sepsis and multiple organ failure.

The governor said the ventilators came from the national stockpile, a supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services. He spoke about the ventilators at a press conference at a Bloom Energy refurbishing site in Sunnyvale on Saturday with San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Bloom’s core business is in repairing and refurbishing fuel-cell power generators sold to large companies and nonprofits. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Newsom said the company is refurbishing more than 500 older ventilators owned by the state.

The governor said the company will also fix and return the 170 ventilators the federal government sent to Los Angeles by Monday.

“That’s the spirit of California,” Newsom said. “That’s the spirit of this moment.”

In total, the state has procured and identified 4,252 ventilators toward a goal of securing 10,000 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Newsom said.

Newsom said the Trump administration has not yet fulfilled the state’s request for ventilators and separately sent the 170 ventilators to L.A. County.


(Luna reported from Sacramento, Lin from Millbrae, Calif., and Greene from Thousand Oaks.)


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