Doctor Reflects on Months of Suffering Before Hospital's First Coronavirus Vaccination

Hospitalizations jumped from 1,371 Tuesday to 1,486 on Wednesday in Orange County as the region's hospitals being to vaccinate staff members.

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A doctor at Hoag Memorial Hospital reflected on months of pain and suffering, but expressed hope for the future as he received the first vaccine shot Thursday morning at the Orange County hospital.

Dr. Usman Shah rolled up the sleeve of his right arm early Thursday for the first of two shots of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Shah and his colleagues have spent months on the frontlines of a pandemic that has claimed more than 1,700 lives in Orange County and strained the region’s hospitals.

Before receiving the shot, Shah shared his thoughts on the past nine months and his optimism for the year to come due to the availability of coronavirus vaccines.

“This is a remarkable day for Hoag, for our country, for the world,” Shah said. “It’s been a long time coming. A year of being on the front-line, seeing patients, seeing families go through this and suffer. Seeing the economy suffer. Seeing grandparents die, miss their Christmases and Thanksgiving this year.

“It’s an emotional and remarkable day for us. I hope that 2021 brings a lot of healing.”

Some of those infected included his colleagues. Vaccinations mean they can better focus on treating the sick, Dr. Shah said.

Orange County's healthcare workers are striving to regroup after 23 fatalities were reported countywide Wednesday, the same day frontline workers in the county received COVID-19 vaccinations. Local hospitals continued to shatter coronavirus patient admittance records, prompting an unprecedented order preventing hospitals from diverting ambulances to other facilities.

The county logged 3,231 new diagnoses of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the cumulative case total to 111,168.

The fatalities reported Wednesday, which date back to earlier this month, raised the death toll to 1,718.

Hospitalizations jumped from 1,371 Tuesday to 1,486 on Wednesday, including 319 intensive care unit patients, up from 296 the previous day. Both are new records -- a daily occurrence since last week.

All of the county's metrics now fall within the state's most-restrictive purple tier of the state's four-tier coronavirus monitoring system.

Late Wednesday, the Orange County Health Care Agency issued an order that suspends the ability of hospitals that take part in the 911 system to request a diversion of ambulances to other medical centers. Dr. Carl Schultz, the agency's EMS medical director, said in a statement that hospital emergency rooms have become so overwhelmed due to the COVID surge that "almost all hospitals were going on diversion."

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