Mayor Garcetti warns of 'darker days’ as COVID-19 surge continues in LA

SANTA MONICA, CA - DECEMBER 15: A patient surved a code blue and then was rushed to ICU to be intubated and be placed on a ventalator inside Providence Saint John's Health Center on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 in Santa Monica, CA. (Francine Orr / Los Ange

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Los Angeles County and throughout California, it’s having a major impact on hospital staff as the surge threatens to overwhelm emergency departments and intensive-care units.

The dramatic coronavirus surge has health officials continuing their plea for residents to heed warnings to avoid gatherings and continue social distancing and mask-wearing.

On Thursday the Los Angeles Public Health Department reported 14,418 new cases and 102 additional deaths. This brings the county’s total case count to 580,325 and 8,664 deaths. The county’s current hospitalizations stand at 4,864.

During a press briefing Thursday evening, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged all Angelenos to help prevent hospitals from being stretched any more by avoiding holiday gatherings. 

The mayor said a hospital administer told him that if LA sees a similar spike after Christmas that "we will go under,'' meaning hospitals won't be able to adequately service patients. 

"The truth is what you do individually is more powerful than anything we can do in government. What you do is even more powerful than the vaccine," Mayor Garcetti stated. "The most important thing you can do is wear masks, to stop gathering with others and stay home whenever you can, because simply getting together with others, whether it’s Christmas or New Years could be disastrous."

RELATED: LA Mayor Eric Garcetti in quarantine after daughter tests positive for COVID-19

He says healthcare workers are stretched thin and hospitals could issue a countywide emergency, indicating they have run out of space for patients.

Garcetti mentioned the state has ordered 5,000 extra body bags and additional refrigerated units for LA and triggered a mutual aid for coroners in the region… meaning they expect to have more dead bodies than spaces in the morgue. 

"In the coming days the county may be required to formally declare a system wide crisis, indicating that all hospitals have run out of space and the staffing for that space. At that time our countywide approach will look a little different than we talked about at the beginning of the pandemic," Garcetti stated. 

RELATED: SoCal's ICU capacity drops to 0% as overwhelmed hospitals struggle to cope with COVID surge

Hospitals are filling up so fast that officials are rolling out mobile field facilities, repurposing non-ICU beds as ICU beds and scrambling to hire doctors and nurses.

According to state released data, SoCal's ICU capacity dropped from 0.5% on Wednesday to 0.0% by Thursday.

Los Angeles County's health services director Dr. Christina Ghaly warned on Wednesday that the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations will lead to "an increase in deaths in the days and weeks to come."

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According to the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, as
of Thursday there were only 716 staffed and available beds available at the 70
"911-receiving'' hospitals that have emergency departments. Only 92 of those
available beds were ICU beds, down from an estimated 102 on Wednesday.

County hospitals have an overall licensed capacity of about 2,500 ICU beds, and hospitals have increased staffing to operate roughly that number over the past week.

City News Service contributed to this report