COVID-19 Hospitalizations Rising And Raising Concerns About The Coming Winter

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: “Emergency department check-in” sign posted outside of the Rady Children’s Hospital emergency room, June 8, 2021.

As coronavirus infections increase in San Diego, so are related hospitalizations and health officials are hoping to see some relief for tired staff soon.

“Last month was a completely different story and this month is a much worse story,” Scott Evans, CEO of Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

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Just a month ago in San Diego County there were around 100 coronavirus-related hospitalizations and that has been steadily increasing, now topping out at just over 500.

“The vast, super-majority are unvaccinated,” Evans said.

Sharp Grossmont Hospital is caring for around 65 coronavirus patients. That’s a far cry from the winter surge where the hospital had around 180 patients, but overall numbers are not trending in the right direction.

“We’re really worried about the winter. We’re always extremely busy in the winter and it feels like the winter in August, in terms of our census and our number of patients,” Evans said. “And so if we do not get some reprieve in terms of really limiting those number of COVID exposures and COVID hospitalizations we do fear the winter will be very difficult.”

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Evans noted that over the last five days numbers have remained relatively flat at Sharp Grossmont, but he added the hospital is adding an overflow tent for the emergency department due to the “staggering” number of patients coming in.

Hospital staff are also feeling the increase.

“Staff have been at this for a number of months — they reached exhaustion,” Evans said. “They saw the light at the end of the tunnel and then here we go again with it being extremely busy.”

Frontline workers feel some may be burning out.

“In the beginning [of the pandemic] we had a shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment) or N95s or isolation gowns or gloves — now I worry we’re at a shortage among resilience among the caregivers,” said Andrea Muir, a Sharp registered nurse and union representative for more than 5,000 Sharp HealthCare workers.

“They’re tired,” she said of the hospital staff. “It’s not only physically demanding and mentally demanding to take care of these COVID patients, along with the other patients we’re taking care of.”

Muir is asking for the public’s help to reduce the burden on the hospital system.

“Make sure that we have sufficient staff to take care of people that need us. And the way to do that is doing your part, and if all you can do for this pandemic is making sure you’re distancing and masking and getting vaccinated, then that’s what you need to do,” she said.

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Muir added one of the toughest parts of her job is trying to help patients that do not believe the virus is real and are resisting care, even as they fight for their lives.

“When people need to be in the hospital for this it’s because if they went home they wouldn’t survive,” she said. “It’s not that ‘Oh it’s better if you go in the hospital,’ They need the care.”

Overall current hospitalizations are about a third of they were during the winter surge, but with the widespread availability of vaccines health officials say many of them are preventable.


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Matt Hoffman

Health Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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