(TNS) - Hospitals and nursing homes have emerged as the front lines in the battle against the coronavirus in California as the number of cases and deaths continue to rise.
In the past four days, the number of intensive care patients in the state has tripled — from 200 to 597 — and the number of hospitalizations has nearly doubled, from 746 to 1,432. By Tuesday morning, the number of confirmed cases has climbed to more than 7,400 and deaths to 149.
Dr. Mark Ghaly, California's secretary of health and human services, said modeling suggests the state will need 50,000 new hospital beds by mid-May.
"We project that we will need that toward the second half of the month of May," Ghaly said. "So we are very busy trying to build toward that."
On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an urgent call for retired healthcare workers and students nearing graduation to join in caring for an expected surge of coronavirus patients.
He said he believes the state can add 37,000 healthcare workers by asking recently retired providers, those in the process of getting a medical license in the state and students enrolled in medical or nursing schools to apply to the newly created California Health Corps.
Newsom's message to anyone with healthcare experience was clear: "We need you."
Nursing homes have been the frequent setting for coronavirus outbreaks across the state.
Los Angeles County officials are investigating outbreaks at 11 area nursing homes — including Kensington Assisted Living in Redondo Beach, Alameda Care Center in Burbank and Silverado Beverly Place in Los Angeles — where elderly residents with underlying health conditions are among the most vulnerable to the pathogen.
That's nearly quadruple the number of nursing home outbreaks county officials had announced Friday. The county defines an outbreak as three or more cases involving residents or staff at a facility.
The county's Department of Public Health also was investigating reports of at least one suspected coronavirus infection at seven additional nursing homes as of Monday afternoon. Of the county's 44 deaths from coronavirus, six have been nursing home residents.
"Our investigation teams work with managers at each site to review implementation of infection control, quarantine and isolation protocols," a Health Department representative said in an email to The Times.
Outbreaks of the virus are occurring in nursing homes across the country with alarming speed and catastrophic potential. One of the first hot spots in the U.S. was at the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland, Wash., where two-thirds of the residents and 47 workers fell ill and 37 people died.
Families with loved ones in nursing homes should seriously consider bringing them home if feasible, said Charlene Harrington, a professor emeritus at UC San Francisco's School of Nursing.
"The risk of exposure is so overwhelming," said Harrington, who has studied nursing homes since the 1980s. "It's a terrible concern."
Conditions are deteriorating at Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center facility in San Francisco, amid a coronavirus outbreak there, city officials said Monday.
Mayor London Breed said nine employees of the large facility had tested positive as well as two patients. Infection control nurses from the state and infectious disease physicians and epidemiologists from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been sent to San Francisco to help, officials said.
"I am saddened to report to the San Francisco community the Laguna Honda hospital has a growing outbreak of coronavirus," said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of public health for San Francisco. Because long-term care facilities around the world have been at greater risk in the COVID-19 pandemic, "we expect the situation to unfortunately get worse," Colfax said.
In San Mateo County, the National Guard was preparing to set up medical cots and equipment at the San Mateo Event Center. The federal treatment site will be able to house 250 patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms.
"The latest projections estimate that a medical surge could push the hospitals in our county to capacity and we'll need another location to house patients requiring particular levels of care," County Manager Mike Callagy said. "We can't just wait to see if this will happen."
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