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County Hospitals Feeling the Strain from COVID-19

Both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties continue to report record highs for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations at their Board of Supervisors meetings December 8. This comes as all Southern California counties adjust to stay at home orders that will last through Dec 28.

Riverside County Director of Public Health, Dr. Kim Saruwatari, told her Board of Supervisors that the intent of the new order is to keep people at home unless it is absolutely necessary for them to go out.

“If you do go out, make sure that you’re wearing a mask, you’re social distancing, you’re washing your hands, and following all of the safety protocols in place so that we can disrupt the disease transmission,” said Saruwatari.

With ICU beds in the Southern California region filled to 90 percent capacity, hospitals are working to find space anywhere they can. Jen Cruikshank, trained nurse and CEO of Riverside University Health System Medical Center, says that includes a plan to transfer their inpatient pediatric patients to Loma Linda University Health.

“The reality is, space is what we’re trying to accommodate, but at the same time, this is putting an extensive strain on our staff," said Cruikshank. "Our staff are on really, really high case-loads. They are taking on more patients than they would normally take.”

Family Medicine Department Chair Dr. Geoff Leung says they are think that in three to four weeks, the effect of the stay-at-home orders will start to show in the data.

“We are hopeful by this time in January we could start to see a bend," said Leung. "We are concerned that we may end up at two times, and if things were to accelerate, even three times, the hospitalizations.”

In San Bernardino County, as public health officers shared similar data, County CEO Leonard Hernandez, shared his plea, as the state anticipates the arrival of the first doses of vaccine in mid-December.

“So what do we do between now and the vaccine? Really, it’s stop the spread, and our encouragement for folks is to continue to get tested," said Hernandez. "It’s critical to have an accurate representation of how many people have COVID-19 for health officials to know the extent of the spread in the region.”

COVID-19 testing information is available for San Bernardino County at sbcovid19.com and for Riverside County at gettested.ruhealth.org.