Cases have skyrocketed after the Thanksgiving holiday, and impacts from Christmas and New Year’s celebrations are still unfolding. As of Saturday, more than 20.4 million people have been infected with the virus in the US and at least 350,186 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. And health experts worry what will happen to those numbers if infections continue to spread.
“This is about total collapse of the health care system if we have another spike,” said Dr. Brad Spellberg, chief medical officer at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. “And we, in the hospital, cannot stop that. We can only react to it. It is the public that has the power to put a stop to the spread of this virus by obeying the public health guidance that have been put out.”
In California, emergency room officials said hospitals are treating an unprecedented number of coronavirus patients.
Design and construction experts from the US Army Corps of Engineers have been deployed to the Los Angeles area to “evaluate and where necessary upgrade oxygen delivery systems” at about a half dozen hospitals.
One area hospital converted administrative offices and break rooms into treatment areas for their coronavirus patients, said Col. Julie Balten, commander of the Los Angeles District for the Corps of Engineers.
4 million vaccines administered
Though the distribution of coronavirus vaccines is currently limited to healthcare workers and long term care patients, officials hope the number of cases and hospitalizations will eventually be reduced by the vaccinations.
“We do have a little bit of a lag in the doses administered, so that’s coming through a few days after they’re delivered. I don’t see it as a major system failure,” she said. “We just aren’t seeing the vaccine going into arms as quickly. But the infrastructure we’ve set up I think is working.”
The UK adopted that strategy in order to give as many people as possible the first dose as quickly as possible, saying that it affords some amount of protection.