Health systems in Long Beach and across the state are triaging simultaneous surges in coronavirus, flu and respiratory syncytial virus cases, which is resulting in crowded hospitals, especially in pediatric units.

“This is beyond a triple-demic,” Dr. Graham Tse, physician-in-charge of COVID at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and chief medical officer at Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital said in an email Tuesday. But the past two years of the pandemic, fortunately, have helped hospitals refine their processes to deal with such a crisis, Tse added.

The MemorialCare campus, along with the St. Mary, Lakewood Regional and Los Alamitos medical centers, are all reporting an increased number of visits and admissions related to COVID-19 and other viruses, hospital staff told the Post on Tuesday.

The entire U.S. saw the respiratory viral season begin one to two months early, with a significant number of infections, Tse said. As of Dec. 2, Long Beach had reported 1,170 cases of the flu, compared to only 48 at this time last year, according to Health Department spokesperson Jennifer Rice Epstein.

“This flu season is having hospitalizations the worst seen in over a decade and the season has just started,” Tse said. Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, also has contributed to increased hospitalization of children, he added.

In a statement Tuesday, state health officials announced flu activity increased from moderate to high. Hospitals statewide are working to add pediatric beds quickly, but the number of children requiring hospitalization is outpacing these expansions.

“RSV and Flu, and now COVID-19, are on the rise – leading to the hospitalization of our youngest and most vulnerable Californians who need all of us to help protect them,” State Public Health Officer and California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Tomás Aragón said in a statement.

The MemorialCare campus still has available pediatric beds, according to Tse.

If a sick child is alert, able to drink fluids and not having breathing difficulties, Tse said they can most likely be managed at home. If, however, they are difficult to awaken, having severe difficulties breathing, very fast breathing or blueness around the lips or on the fingers (cyanosis), parents should seek medical assistance.

The number of daily new coronavirus cases in Long Beach, meanwhile, has skyrocketed this month, with the city reporting a total of 1,143 new cases last week following Thanksgiving gatherings the week before. Comparatively, the city reported only 280 new causes the week of Oct. 31, according to city data.

Long Beach health officials have not reported over 1,000 new cases since the week of Aug. 8, when they reported 1,123 cases.

Tse noted that not all patients at Memorial with COVID were admitted for symptoms associated with the virus. Many times, COVID is detected after admissions and the patient is asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, he said.

“We treat all patients requiring admission for covid for infection control purposes,” Tse said.

Even as COVID metrics are climbing, health officials maintain that coronavirus cases are underreported due to home testing—and some people not testing at all.

The city’s cumulative seven-day case rate surpassed 200 per 100,000 residents on Friday, moving Long Beach into the California Department of Public Health’s “medium” community spread tier. As of Friday, the city’s cumulative case rate was 229.2.

The shift means everyone should “consider” masking in indoor public spaces, according to CDPH guidelines, and that masking is recommended for vulnerable groups. City health officials said last week that there are currently no plans to reinstate mandatory indoor masking.

Los Angeles County, meanwhile, could see universal indoor masking return in the coming days, according to LA Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

Because it has its own health department, Long Beach sets its own guidelines and does not need to adhere to county mandates.

Long Beach’s coronavirus seven-day positivity rate was 15.8% as of Friday, compared to the county’s 12.3% rate.

State and local health officials encourage everyone to practice good personal hygiene, including hand washing regularly, masking indoors, getting the flu shot and keeping up to date with COVID-19 boosters.

Indoor masking could return to LA County next week, but not in Long Beach, officials say

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.