SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — The Orange County Health Care Agency Thursday reported 3,490 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and one additional fatality, bringing countywide totals to 138,310 cases and 1,782 deaths.
Health officials also reported a new record-high hospitalizations, with 1,893 COVID-19 patients hospitalized — a jump of 30 from Wednesday. Of those hospitalized, 405 were being treated in intensive care units — also a pandemic high.
Health officials continued to urge people to stay home and refrain from gathering over the holiday weekend as the county’s state-adjusted ICU bed availability remained at zero.
At Anaheim Global Medical Center, surge tents have been set up. And though they were empty on Thursday, they were expected to be put into use in the coming days as the emergency department reaches capacity.
“Last week was the first time that I actually shed tears, and I’ve worked at some really critical hospitals and have never shed a tear,” Tavonia Ekwegh, the hospital’s director of nursing, said.
Ekwegh, who has not worked directly with patients on a day-to-day basis in sometime, has put her scrubs back on as the hospital continues to see a surge in COVID-19 patients.
“I have several ICU-level patients meaning that they have a level of acuity that requires one-to-one care,” she said. “But, due to the number of ICU patients in my [emergency department], some of my nurses are caring for three, four, five, six ICU patients at a time. So seeing my team obviously stretched beyond their bandwidth, it is my duty, as their leader, to jump in and help my team.”
But Ekwegh is not the only one jumping in to care for emergency department patients. Nurse Brian McCullough, who normally works in the hospital’s cardiac lab, has been temporarily transferred to help with the crush of patients.
“Everybody is on oxygen,” he said. “It’s an incredible amount of work. You can’t appreciate it until you walk in, you just see everybody moving all day long.”
Despite the rising cases, residents said they are still trying to find some sense of normalcy during the holidays during a year that is anything but typical.
Ian Stevensen went to an indoor church service Thursday night.
“There’s a mask requirement and social distancing and all the protocols, so we felt like it was safe,” he said. “At the same time, it provided that element of being able to be together.”
Shane Reese said he and his family were keeping everyone affected by the pandemic in their thoughts during the service.
“Our prayer is for those that truly are suffering in this thing — people who have lost family members, lost jobs…” he said.
UC Irvine Epidemiologist Andrew Noymer said he worries that these upcoming expected surges will completely overwhelm the already stressed healthcare system.
“It’s not like, ‘tag you’re it.’ There’s a delay,” he said. “There’s five to 10 days between catching the COVID infection and becoming infectious to another person.”
Noymer said anyone who contracts COVID-19 from holiday shopping and holiday gathering will not appear in the counties numbers and begin spreading the virus for several more weeks.
The county’s adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 stood at 51.8 Thursday, unchanged from Wednesday, and the positivity rate held steady at 15.2%.
Next week, county officials will debut an app developed to help doctors and nurses track recipients of vaccines to ensure they get a booster shot and to monitor for side effects.
Orange County Supervisor Doug Chaffee said the app will be called Othena, an homage to the goddess of war Athena.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)