With Southern California hospitals at 0 percent ICU capacity availability, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a hospital surge order on Tuesday, Jan. 5, requiring the postponement of non-essential and non-life-threatening surgeries to preserve services for the sickest patients at San Bernardino County hospitals.

The order affects counties with 10 percent or less ICU capacity under the Regional Stay at Home Order where the regional ICU capacity is at 0 percent. This includes San Bernardino County within the Southern California region, which has been at 0 percent ICU capacity since Dec. 18. Other Southern California counties affected include Riverside, Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Ventura.

The order will remain in effect for at least four weeks and until rescinded.

The order also requires hospitals statewide to accept patient transfers from facilities under the crisis care guidelines, as long as the patients can be transferred safely.

The order was issued after state COVID-19 hospitalizations increased 17 percent in two weeks, while COVID-19 ICU admissions increased 21 percent in the same time.

“If we continue to see an alarming increase of COVID-19 patient admissions at hospitals statewide, some facilities may not be able to provide the critical and necessary care Californians need, whether those patients have COVID-19 or another medical condition,” said Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, CDPH director and state public health officer. “This order helps ensure that patients continue to receive appropriate medical services by better distributing available resources across the state to prevent overwhelming specific hospitals, counties and regions. As we continue to see the effects of holiday travel and gatherings in our emergency rooms and ICUs, we cannot underscore enough how critically important it is for Californians to stay home, wear masks and avoid getting together with people outside their immediate households to slow this alarming surge of hospitalizations.”

Following the report of the region’s 0 percent ICU capacity, St. Bernardine Medical Center issued the following statement on Monday, Jan. 11:

No healthcare provider ever wants to be in a situation where there are more patients than available resources. Since the start of the pandemic, we have done everything possible to expand capacity – space, supplies and skilled caregivers, however, at this time, our ICU is at capacity.

We continue to stay in close contact with the San Bernardino Department of Health to determine the best way to care for an unprecedented surge of critically ill COVID-19 patients in our community. If the number of patients exceeds our resources, and there are no alternate care sites available, we will implement triage guidelines so that limited resources are used equitably and consistent with national standards.

In this critical time, we must work together preserve space in our hospitals. The best way to prevent triage is to continue to follow public health guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Please remember this simple prescription: Don’t Share Your Air. Wear a mask, social distance, and get the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you.

As of Wednesday, Jan. 13, San Bernardino County reported 239,786 confirmed COVID-19 cases (213,033 of which have been resolved) and 1,552 COVID-19-related deaths.

Highland has had 6,622 confirmed cases with 42 deaths.

As of Tuesday, the county had 1,720 confirmed COVID patients (356 in ICU, of 723 total staffed ICU beds) and 75 suspected COVID-19 patients. The county has tested 1.893 million patients and vaccinated 38,770, including approximately 900 doses to medical first responders.

Earlier this week, the county moved into the second tier of Phase 1A of its vaccination roadmap, which means doses are being distributed to caregivers with In Home Support Services (IHSS), intermediate care centers, and public and community health centers, including facilities for mental health.

Tier 2 of Phase 1A also sees the first vaccines going to urgent care facilities and primary care physicians that are able to receive and handle the vaccines, which is less than 25 percent of all state physicians at this time.

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