COVID-19 hospitalizations in Los Angeles County top 8,000 as pandemic worsens

As coronavirus cases continue to skyrocket in Southern California, more than 8,000 COVID-19 patients in Los Angeles County were hospitalized Tuesday, according to data released by the state.

California reported 8,023 patients who tested positive for COVID-19 were hospitalized in LA County and of those, 1,642 were in intensive care units.

The county's 70 "911-receiving" hospitals with emergency rooms have a total licensed capacity of about 2,500 ICU beds, although in recent weeks they have implemented surge plans and staffed a daily average of about 3,000 ICU beds.

As the virus continues to devastate the community, LA County paramedics were instructed to conserve oxygen and not to bring patients to the hospital who have little chance of survival. The availability of oxygen has become a statewide issue for hospitals, particularly in hard-hit LA County.

The spike in COVID patients has vastly increased the demand for oxygen, and some hospitals have been experiencing difficulty maintaining their pressurized systems. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is sending experts to help with the oxygen delivery systems at six of the county's older hospitals.

"By working to upgrade challenged oxygen delivery systems at these older hospitals we can improve the ability to deliver life-sustaining medical care to those who need it," said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday the state has created a task force to address the issues with oxygen supply and delivery.

The Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency issued multiple directives Monday, telling paramedics to not transfer patients in cardiac arrest to the hospital unless spontaneous circulation can be successfully performed in the field. 

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Health officials continue to warn that conditions are expected to worsen in the coming weeks due to the expected surge from the holidays.

"We're likely to experience the worst conditions in January that we've faced the entire pandemic,'' County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. "And that's hard to imagine. In slightly more than one month, we doubled the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19, going from 400,000 cases on Nov. 30 to 800,000 on Jan. 2. It took us nine and a half months to get to the first 400,000 cases."

RELATED: Paramedics being told when and when not to transport patients, officials say that's nothing new

Infection rates in LA County are so high, that health experts say one in every five people tested for the virus tests positive. 

"Everyone should keep in mind that community transmission rates are so high that you run the risk of an exposure whenever you leave your home," Ferrer said. "Assume that this deadly invisible virus is everywhere, looking for a willing host."

Health officials said the virus is not only spreading within households but also at the workplace. It was recently revealed several warehouses and big-box stores in the county had a COVID-19 outbreak amongst employees. 


• Pandemic getting worse in LA as virus spreads within households
COVID-19 outbreaks at SoCal warehouse stores on the rise

CNS contributed to this report.