LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — As the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. grew, hospitals across the Southland prepared for the worst. However, as California approaches its sixth week under a safer-at-home order, doctors and nurses at local hospitals say their facilities are largely empty.

“Everybody was expecting this huge influx of patients with the COVID-19, but we’re seeing the exact opposite at our hospitals,” said one cancer nurse, who asked to remain anonymous. “There’s parts of the hospital where the lights are off.”

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She said that some healthcare professionals may even take financial hits, due to a lack of need.

“They’re saying we’re heroes, we’re the front line and all this, but we’re the ones that are possibly getting furloughed,” she continued. “It’s just really strange.”

Elective surgeries are prohibited at this time, forcing many Southern California hospitals to cut hours and shifts. Additionally, some professionals believe people are avoiding seeking medical care for fear of contracting coronavirus in the hospital.

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Dr. Sam Torbati, the co-director of Cedars-Sinai emergency room, said Thursday that he sees patients every day who have delayed their ER visit out of fear that they will be exposed to COVID-19. He urged people not to be afraid to seek necessary medical care.

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He said that delaying emergency medical care can be dangerous and lowers ER doctors’ ability to help once help is sought.

“We’re available. We have a lot of capacity. We don’t want them to have fear,” Torbati said, noting that patients who are suspected of having COVID-19 symptoms are isolated.

The Cedars-Sinai ER has seen 30 percent fewer patients between March 1 and April 15 compared to the same time period in 2019.

Torbati said some reduction is expected, due to stay-at-home orders impacting the number of major trauma cases, including car accidents, shootings, and stabbings. However, he said there has been a drop in visits from other cases that the ER normally treats and that would not necessarily be impacted by stay-at-home orders.

The emergency physician said he fears a spike in non-coronavirus-related deaths, especially in people who have serious health issues.

“Hospitals like Cedars-Sinai have processes in place to ensure people’s safety,” he said. “The fear of picking up COVID-19 in a hospital, I understand it… [but] emergencies are things where time makes a difference.”

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