New infections have soared, with about one in five residents who test for Covid-19 getting positive results.
With no hospital beds available, district ambulance crews have been instructed not to transport patients who have little chance of survival. Often transferred patients have to wait hours before a bed becomes available.
Supervisor Hilda Solis said, “Hospitals are announcing the occurrence of internal disasters and they must open church gyms to serve as hospital units,” describing the situation as a “humanitarian disaster.”
Barbara Ferrer, director of public health for Los Angeles County, said one person dies from the virus every 15 minutes.
But it will only get worse. Officials say they are headed for the alarming increase in the holiday gatherings.
“The increases in the number of cases are likely to continue for weeks to come as a result of the holiday parties, New Year’s and returning travelers,” Ferrer said. “We will probably see the worst conditions in January as we faced the entire epidemic, which is hard to imagine.”
Here’s how bad things really are.
Ambulance crews gave grim instructions
With hospital admissions rising, the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) agency has directed ambulance crews not to take patients with little chance of survival to hospitals and to maintain their oxygen use.
Before the pandemic, when health care workers and resources were more readily available, patients who were unlikely to recover could have been transported by ambulances to hospital for treatment.
The agency said Los Angeles hospitals are now full and many medical facilities do not have space to accommodate patients who do not have a chance to survive. The provincial emergency medical department said patients whose hearts have stopped despite resuscitation efforts should not be taken to hospitals.
“ Effective immediately, given the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on emergency medical services and receiving hospitals 9-1-1, adult patients (18 years or older) who experience non-traumatic cardiac arrest outside of hospital (OHCA) may not be transferred [if]”The return of automatic rotation (ROSC) has not been achieved in the field,” the agency said in a note issued to ambulance workers last week.
If there are no signs of breathing or pulse, the EMS will continue to perform resuscitation for at least 20 minutes, the note said. If the patient stabilizes after the resuscitation period, he will be hospitalized. If the patient is declared dead at the scene or the pulse is not restored, paramedics will no longer take the body to the hospital.
The lack of oxygen, given the large number of Covid-19 patients, has also pressured the system to maintain supply.
“Due to the urgent need to preserve oxygen, with immediate effectiveness, EMS should only administer supplemental oxygen to patients whose oxygen saturation is less than 90%,” EMS said in a note to ambulance crew on Monday.
Ambulances wait for hours outside hospitals
Even after they reach hospitals, some EMTs have to wait outside for hours, as hospitals often do not have enough beds to receive patients.
While ambulances wait in hospitals, there are fewer of them to answer other 911 calls coming in, resulting in delayed response.
CNN’s Gene Silva contributed to this report.