By CBSLA Staff

HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA) — As the coronavirus pandemic surges in Southern California, healthcare workers Friday continued to feel the impact.

A person walks out of the emergency room Dec. 8 at LAC+USC Hospital. On Friday, the Southern California region had 6.2% ICU availability remaining, according to the state. (Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

“Our ICUs are filling up,” Stephanie Ortega, an intensive care unit nurse, said. “We’re putting them in rooms that don’t windows. We can’t even see the sickest patients in the hospital.”

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And the sentiment is shared by nurses across the Southland who have reported sharp increases in the number of COVID-19 patients in their ICUs.

“Two and a half, three weeks ago, we had zero patients in ICU — zero COVID patients in ICU,” Chitra Rao, an ICU nurse at another hospital, said. “Two and a half, three weeks later, we are up to 22 or 23 patients.”

Both of the nurses said they have experienced loss from COVID-19 in their own families. But, despite their personal losses and sacrifices, the women still show up to bring comfort to their patients who are unable to be with loved ones in their final moments of life.

“It breaks me, because I cannot five my grandkids a hug,” Rao said.

The women said it has been frustrating to see people gathering in groups and traveling for Thanksgiving, because the deadly impact of those decisions will become clear in a matter of days.

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“What is the answer to this,” Rao said. “Simple. Let’s wear a mask, let’s follow the simple guidelines, let’s celebrate Christmas by ourselves.”

But healthcare professionals said hospital capacity is only one part of a larger problem the system is facing, because while beds and ventilators can be added, there are only so many workers available to care for the surging number of patients.

“These patients require complex decision making,” Ortega said.

And while Ortega said some of her own family members doubt the severity of the pandemic, she believed their perspective would change if they were able to see what has been happening within the walls of her ICU.

“I think a lot of these conversations wouldn’t be happening,” she said.

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As of Friday, the Southern California region — which includes Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties — had an ICU availability of 6.2%, according to the California Department of Public Health.