Sonoma County hospitals in good shape for now to keep up with COVID-19
Early during the local coronavirus pandemic, maybe 1% of the patients occupying a hospital bed at Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley hospitals had a diagnosis of COVID-19. But that share has grown steadily, particularly in the past month, just as it has across the state.
By the Fourth of July, some 5% of patients at both hospitals, which are run by Providence St. Joseph Health Sonoma County, had the virus, said Dr. Chad Krilich, the hospitals’ chief medical officer. Now, he said, 10% of patients have the virus, though most of them are not being treated in intensive care units.
Coronavirus hospitalizations across the state have surpassed levels reached during the first wave of the virus and hospitals in some regions, particularly in Southern California and the Central Valley have been forced to transport patients to other counties, according to the California Hospital Association.
But local physicians, health care providers and public health officials say the level of hospitalizations in Sonoma County is still manageable, though that could change if cases continue to increase.
“Each of the facilities in Sonoma County have been managing this incident appropriately,” Krilich said. “Given where we are today, we're managing to what we're seeing really well and the future will be predicated on how the community responds to the recommendations of our health officer.”
In the past week, more than 150 medical experts, scientists and nurses in the United States signed on to a letter urging political leaders to shut down the country again to once again suppress the spread of the virus.
Dr. Sundari Mase, the local health officer, said Friday before issuing any new restrictions she first wants to gauge the impact of state-ordered restrictions that resulted when the county was placed on the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list. Mase agreed with Krilich that at least for now, the county’s hospitals are effectively managing current patient volumes of patients with and without COVID-19.
Statewide, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has grown dramatically and now exceeds previous peak levels several months ago, according to state hospital experts.
During a press briefing Wednesday, Carmela Coyle, the president and CEO of the California Hospital Association, warned that hospitalization rates are greater now than they were during the first wave of the pandemic in March and April. Coyle said before June 15, the number of new cases statewide was growing by between 1,500 and 2,000 a day.
“After June 15, we saw things skyrocket precipitously,” she said. “We're now looking at 4,000 to 9,000 new COVID positive cases a day.”
Then, almost exactly two weeks later, the number of California residents hospitalized with COVID-19 began to rise significantly, she said. The incubation period for COVID-19 — from exposure to symptoms — is thought to extend to 14 days, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Sonoma County, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has grown dramatically since late June when the number of hospitalizations went from single to double digits. The number hit 44 in less than a month and now sits at about 42 confirmed COVID-19 positive patients, according to the county’s hospital capacity dashboard.
The rapid increase in hospitalizations had been one of the pandemic trends that landed Sonoma County on the state’s coronavirus watchlist on July 10. After three days on the list, the state manadated Sonoma County to issue restrictions to halt indoor dining and drinking at restaurants, wine tasting rooms and breweries, among other pullbacks.
At that time, the average number of people hospitalized over a three-day period was increasing by 30%, far exceeding the 10% benchmark established by the state for suppressing the virus. But as of Saturday, hospitalizations are currently stable, with a 1% decline in the past three days.
On Thursday, Mase provided the Board of Supervisors with on update on the local spread of the virus. She reported that 70% of 120 COVID-19 patients who have ever been hospitalized were over 50 years old. Of these, 47, or 39%, have received treatment intensive care units.
Only one person under the age of 18 and 35 residents between 18 and 49 have ever been hospitalized.
Mase, who frequently receives updates on hospital capacity and the number of COVID-19 patients, said local hospitals have been operating at about 90% capacity since they’ve been conducting elective surgeries. For the most part, they are non-emergency surgeries that should not be delayed.