By CBSLA Staff

APPLE VALLEY (CBSLA) – Hospitals in San Bernardino County who are feeling the stress brought on by the surge of coronavirus patients have been forced to add outdoor space.

Patient overflow tents outside Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, Calif. Dec. 10, 2020. (CBSLA)

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Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, one of San Bernardino County’s biggest trauma centers, is now using tents in its parking lot for low-acuity patients to make more space in the ICU. The hospital ran out of ICU beds on Wednesday night.

“We’re drowning in COVID patients right now, and we’re literally kind of up to our neck,” Dr. Troy Pennington, a physician at the Colton hospital, said.

He said so many COVID-19 patients have come in recently that the medical center had to convert a conference room into an overflow hospital floor with beds. He said hospital staff have been considering doing the same for part of the cafeteria.

“Our big concern is that if we can’t get people to do better during the upcoming holidays — during Christmas and New Year’s — we literally could go under,” Pennington said.

Pennington said that this third surge in COVID hospitalizations has already been worse than the first and second surges combined. And while there’s a light at the end of the tunnel with vaccines en route, he said he didn’t think hospitals would see the positive effects for months.

“I think it’s not going to be until February until we’ll be able to take a breath,” he said.

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And in Fontana, Kaiser Permanente charge nurse Marcial Reyes said that regardless of the staffing at his hospital, it just wasn’t enough for the sheer volume of patients being treated.

“It’s rough,” he said. “It’s tough.”

Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley also set up a tent in its parking lot to triage arriving patients and transformed its lobby into an extended in-patient COVID-19 unit because it has run out of room.

“I know today that we have 60 patients holding in our emergency department that are waiting for beds inside the hospital, some of them have been there as long as seven days,” Mendy Hickey, quality director for the Providence St. Mary Medical Center, told CBSLA Wednesday.

San Bernardino County health officials 3,369 newly confirmed cases Friday, bringing the countywide total to 119,010 cases. A total of 1,209 people had died from the virus.

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There were 1,132 coronavirus patients hospitalized as of Thursday, 234 of whom were being treated in intensive care units.