Sacramento County health officials pay close attention to ICU bed availability as virus numbers trend upward

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SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — State health officials are keeping a close eye on Sacramento County, where the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise.

Of particular concern is the county’s ability to handle intensive care patients who have contracted the virus.

No one wants a repeat of what happened at hospitals in national hotspots this spring, something Sacramento area hospitals dodged with early lockdown orders. But in recent days, the number of emergency room visits by people with COVID-19 symptoms is going up.

Sacramento County’s just-released numbers show an overall rising trend that saw a drop in the last few days. 

“We are optimistic that we have been able to turn things around but we are definitely continuing to see what’s going to happen over the next week or so,” said Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye.

Still, the growing number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations is not good news, nor is the shrinking number of ICU beds available. As of Monday, 421 of the county’s 508 ICU beds were occupied. That’s around 17% away from full capacity.

The numbers are deceiving with regard to the virus. There are just 45 COVID-19 ICU patients. The vast majority are being used by patients with other critical ailments like heart attacks and accident injuries.

But a spike in patients in the county could eat up the remaining beds and endanger the lives of non-COVID-19 patients as well.

“We have been in conversation with hospitals and they do have a plan for surge and so they will utilize that if necessary,” Dr. Kasirye told FOX40.

By converting other hospital rooms and beds the county has a surge capacity of 657 additional beds and only 23% of available ventilators are being used.

Still, makeshift surge facilities and the staffing they will require are not the best option. 

Only now is testing revealing the effects of the Fourth of July weekend, when large group gatherings were common. Current numbers show the largest number infections came from the 20 to 29 age group.

Health officials said they are hopeful that people got their message of social distancing and masks but July Fourth test results are just coming in.

“Our hope is that it worked to the point where we’re not going to see any increase in cases as the result of the Fourth of July. But I think the jury is still out on that one,” Dr. Kasirye said.

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