‘We're Getting Crushed': 6,000 LA County Hospital Workers to Be Vaccinated by Christmas

Highest-risk workers will be vaccinated first at LA County-USC Medical Center, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

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Six thousand shots will be delivered to frontline healthcare workers by Christmas under a COVID-19 vaccination plan underway at Los Angeles County hospitals as staff members scramble to help patients during the worst virus surge of the pandemic.

Los Angeles County Heath Services' mass vaccination plan began Friday at three county hospitals — LA County-USC Medical Center, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. About 1,500 members of the workforce were expected to be vaccinated Friday.

“It’s a significant step forward in our battle against COVID-19,” said Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.

We’re getting crushed. We’ve had to scramble. Can we move this patient here? Can we move this patient there?

Dr. Brad Spellberg, chief medical officer at LAC-USC Medical Center

The shots are being delivered as Southern California’s coronavirus crisis worsens, resulting in shrinking resources at the region’s hospitals and the largest surge of COVID-19 patients of the pandemic. The Southern California region’s ICU capacity dipped to 0% Thursday.

The Southern California region includes Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

"We can't respond to the increasing threat of this virus if our workforce doesn't stay healthy," Ghaly said. "So the fact that our frontline workforce... is ready to get the vaccination mean so much for their ability to stay safe so they can put their skills to use in the care of patients."

During a video conference Friday morning to discuss the unprecedented surge, doctors and nurses pleaded with residents to follow public health orders to reduce the strain on hospitals.

“We’re getting crushed,” said Dr. Brad Spellberg, chief medical officer at LAC-USC Medical Center. “We’ve had to scramble. Can we move this patient here? Can we move this patient there?

“It isn’t just COVID patients. It’s car accidents, and heart attacks and victims of violence.”

He went on to voice the frustrations caused by people who deny the severity of the pandemic and its impact on hospitals.

"The amount of moral courage it takes to run towards the danger makes
it very frustrating for our heroes every day to come to our hospitals and
care for patients when we see video and hear people not taking the public
health strategies seriously," he said.

LA County reported 699 total available hospital beds Friday morning with just 69 of those in intensive-care units.

The ICU capacity number is a snapshot of one moment in time that frequently changes as new patients are admitted or stabilized, no longer requiring the level of treatment delivered in an ICU. It does not necessarily mean there are no iCU beds available in the large Southern California region. The state adjusts the percentage downward if counties have a higher-than-expected ratio of COVID-19 patients occupying ICU spaces.

Resources are stretched to meet the ever-needed care. Patrick Healy reports for the NBC News on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020.

The state is averaging more than 35,000 new cases per day. About 12 percent of them (4,200) end up in hospitals, according to health officials. 

On Thursday, California reported 52,000 new cases in a single day. That's about equal to what the nation was averaging in mid-October. A record 379 deaths also were reported Thursday -- another single-day record.

Coronavirus Hospital Use Projections Across the Country

This interactive chart uses model data provided by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation to predict how the coronavirus will affect health care resources in different states. In states such as Florida and California, hospital bed use is projected to continue to grow into September and October. Most states have enough general hospital and ICU beds to meet demand, according to additional data from The Associated Press.

Sources: State hospital bed capacity data from the Associated Press. Model data provided by IHME. Note: The model assumes mask use continues at currently observed rates and the gradual easing of social distancing mandates continues. It also assumes the mandate would be re-imposed for six weeks if daily deaths reach 8 per million.
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

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