Orange County

OC Braces for New Coronavirus Cases as Hospitals Two-Thirds Full

County officials said they expect a surge of cases in early May.

Orange County officials outlined Tuesday what hospitals and health authorities are doing to prepare for an expected surge of coronavirus patients in the coming weeks.

"For Orange County, the surge we're anticipating is probably going to be in two or three weeks, probably early May," Orange County Healthcare Director Richard Sanchez, who is poised to take over as CalOptima's chief executive officer, told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

"We have enough hospital beds currently."

At a news conference Tuesday, David Souleles, the deputy director of the Orange County Public Health Department said hospitals in the area are at about 65% to 67% capacity.

Hospitals are able to "flex capacity" by about 10%, which would provide about 532 more beds in the county, officials said. This would bring the total available to 5,367.

Orange County is part of a mutual aid program in the state that includes hospitals in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties, so if Orange County needs beds they can put patients in another county where there are vacancies.

If that fails, Orange County can turn to hospitals in other surrounding counties.

County officials are also in "ongoing talks" with state officials about using Fairview Developmental Center, a shuttered center for developmentally disabled patients, and the Orange County Fairgrounds, if necessary.

The county's Health Care Agency has received 1,069 requests from 257 providers and has handed out about 1.1 million units of medical supplies, mostly personal protection equipment, from its warehouse since Feb. 18, Souleles said.

From Feb. 18 through Monday, the county issued 878,705 N95 masks, 415 ventilators, 6,648 face shields, 132,700 gloves, 133,400 gowns and 51,754 containers of hand sanitizer.

It appears the recent state shipments are from the national stockpile, so state resources may be tapped, officials said.

The county has 809 ventilators, and the agency has ordered 500 more from the state.

Last week, the county began accepting donations and has received 660 N95 masks, 4,100 surgical masks, 14,800 gloves, 1,250 Tyvek suits, and 1,500 gallons of disinfectant.

Supervisor Andrew Do encouraged residents to use masks, but discouraged "hoarding" because healthcare providers should have first priority.

"Some kind of mask is better than nothing," Do said.

The lack of hospital-grade masks is a national problem, Souleles said.

The county's lab has been testing about 80 specimens daily and has the capacity to test about 1,000 patients.

Officials are seeking new tests and are encouraged the Food and Drug Administration has approved Abbott's 15-minute test and Cepheid's 45-minute test.

However, there is a critical shortage of swabs used for taking specimens.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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