This article was updated on Feb. 3 to report the lastest data on hospital ICU capacity.
By T.A. Hendrickson
Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted the statewide stay-at-home order on Jan. 25, paving the way for outdoor dining, personal-care services, small private gatherings and other activities to resume in Los Angeles County.
The partial reopening came as hospitals in California continued to be crowded with COVID-19 patients and as newer and possibly deadlier coronavirus variants are being identified.
For those reasons, the partial reopening has been greeted with caution, not celebration.
“Please don’t take this news to mean that you can return to life as normal,” said L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis in a press release to comment on the reopening. “Masks, physical distancing and limiting activities are still key to getting out of this pandemic until we can get everyone vaccinated.” Solis represents the county’s 1st supervisory district, which includes Northeast L.A.
Can the hospitals handle it?
In announcing the end of the stay-at-home order, Newsom acknowledged that intensive care units (ICUs) at many California hospitals were under extreme stress from the influx of COVID patients. But, he said, lifting the stay-at-home order was appropriate because projections showed that the situation at hospitals would improve in coming weeks.
There has indeed been some improvement recently in ICU caseloads, though the situation remains serious.
When Newsom announced the partial reopening, six of eight hospitals near Northeast L.A. were at 96% to 100% capacity in their ICUs and two were 90% to 93% full, according to data compiled weekly by The New York Times.
A week later, the data showed that ICUs at three of those hospitals were 99% or 100% full, including Adventist Health Glendale, Alhambra Hospital Medical Center and Glendale Memorial. At four of the eight hospitals, ICUs were 91% to 95% full, inlcuding Providence St. Joseph, White Memorial, Keck USC and L.A. County & USC Medical Center. At USC Verdugo Hills, ICU capacity had improved to 83%.
In all, those eight hospitals were treating 838 COVID patients as of Jan. 29, an improvement from 1,011 COVID patients a week earlier.
The improvements are welcome, but health officials still urge caution, including mask wearing and limiting one’s activities. They also advise people to get tested for the virus and to make an appointment for the vaccine as soon as they are eligible. You will find test sites in NELA and vaccination information here.
Related content: How to stay safe in NELA as the vaccine rolls out Jan. 11, 2021