ICU Availability in Southern California at 0%

Graph depicting confirmed COVID-19 cases in the ICU as of Tuesday. | Graph courtesy of L.A. County Public Health

The availability of intensive care unit beds in the Southern California region dropped to 0% Thursday, according to data from the state.

Hospitals report the number of existing staffed ICU beds and staffed ICU surge beds. Regional ICU capacity is calculated by “removing neonatal ICU beds (NICU) and pediatric intensive care unit beds (PICU) as well as standardizing current adult ICU capacity,” according to the state’s COVID-19 website.

Though officials have repeatedly emphasized that the number is just a snapshot of a moment in time and that ICU availability changes on the hour, it still serves as an important indicator of the dire situation inside local hospitals. At Huntington Hospital, for example, 90% of ICU beds are currently occupied by COVID-19 patients, according to the City of Pasadena.

“You hear we’re at 0%. That doesn’t mean we have no ICU beds or staff available at all. It means we’re into a surge,” Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday.

However, though surge plans can be implemented, tents set up in parking lots and floors converted to ICU units, and elective surgeries postponed, staffing remains a concern.

The three-day average daily number of hospitalizations. | Graph courtesy of L.A. County Public Health

“There is simply a limit to the number of people who can safely receive intensive care services in our hospitals at any one time, even after everything has been done to expand the capacity and expand the ICUs,” Health and Human Services Director Christina Ghaly explained earlier this week.

Los Angeles County Health Services reported Thursday that 66 adult ICU beds were available. Of the 4,410 COVID-positive patients currently hospitalized, 1,038 are in the ICU and that number is likely to increase in one to two weeks when the effects of the current case surge are seen in medical centers.

Earlier this week, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly explained that officials estimate that 12% of new coronavirus cases are likely to end up in the hospital, and 12% of those are likely to end up in the ICU.

On average, two Los Angeles County residents are dying every hour of COVID-19, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday.

Officials say gatherings and travel, at times with people who are asymptomatic, are behind the current surge.

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