Long Beach sees 248% surge in hospitalizations amid record number of COVID-19 cases

The number of patients admitted to Long Beach area hospitals has jumped 248% this month as California sees a shocking surge in COVID-19 cases, local officials said Monday.

The news comes as Los Angeles County reported a record-breaking 6,124 new cases of COVID-19 Monday while officials implored people to stay home for the Thanksgiving holiday to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

“Right now we’re seeing a dangerous and unprecedented rise in COVID cases across the state,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said in a news conference Monday. “The steepness and the quickness of the climb is startling and that’s something we have to think about in the weeks ahead. It’s not just who is in our hospitals today, but the steady increase.”

In Long Beach, local facilities as of Monday have seen a 248% increase in people hospitalized for Covid, jumping from 25 to 87 patients in the past three weeks.

The service area includes Lakewood Regional, Long Beach Memorial, St. Mary, Los Alamitos and College Medical Center.

Garcia did say that he’s talked with leaders from two area hospitals, and they have expressed concern about the rapid increase in patients. Hospitals have all seen numbers double in recent weeks, with an increase in younger people, children and pregnant women being admitted, he said.

“We have room today in our hospitals to take care of people who are sick, but if we keep the current rate of growth we will be in a very dangerous position just weeks from now,” the mayor said.

The city’s public-facing database that tracks daily COVID numbers actually counts hospitalizations a different way: Rather than count the number of patients in local hospitals, the dashboard counts the number of Long Beach residents in the hospital, either here or somewhere else. As of Friday, a total of 50 Long Beach residents were hospitalized, up from 32 on Nov. 1.

Meanwhile Gov. Gavin Newsom in a news conference Monday said the state has seen a 77% increase in hospitalizations in a 14-day period. Overall, COVID patients accounted for 7% of the state’s entire health care system capacity.

In Long Beach, officials said local hospitals are at about a 60% capacity, including those hospitalized for other issues not related to COVID.

Long Beach City Health Officer Dr. Anissa Davis said the city has a surge capacity that includes beds at a Long Beach City College campus and the possibility of setting up cots in the Long Beach Convention Center, which the city did earlier this year.

“We’re closely watching the numbers,” she said.

In one positive note, mortality rates remain low. The city as of Monday has seen a total 270 deaths related to COVID.

Davis said one possible reason is that younger people have higher recovery rate. Statewide, 60% of new cases are between the ages of 18 to 49.

Hospitals are also becoming better at treating people, but that could change if they become overwhelmed, she added.

“I think there’s no doubt that treatment is playing a part of that, but one of the biggest concerns is having enough capacity to use the new treatments,” she said. 

Davis said the next two months will be key.

Local hospitals, meanwhile, say they are prepared.

Dignity Health, which oversees St. Mary Medical Center, in a statement on Monday said medical staff have “learned a great deal” in the pandemic this year that has prepared them for the next surge.

“St. Mary Medical Center has developed and adapted detailed plans to quickly and safely expand our capacity to ensure that all those needing critical care will receive it. We have secured an extensive inventory of new personal protective equipment (PPE) and require all individuals inside our facilities to wear appropriate PPE.”

Dr. Graham Tse, chief medical officer for Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach, in a statement said Long Beach Medical Center has seen an “increase in the number of admissions for COVID-19 in the last few days and weeks.”

“However, our numbers remain below the prior peaks encountered earlier in the pandemic, and we have ample supplies of PPE and ample staff to care for all our patients safely.  We continue to offer all services to our patients and want to remind the community not to delay seeking care.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect that the mayor has spoken with leaders from two area hospitals regarding Covid increases. The article has also been updated to the include city data on the number of those hospitalized over the past three weeks. 

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].
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