Hospital officials plead with the public to help prevent healthcare system from getting overwhelmed

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CENTRAL VALLEY, Calif. (KSEE) – Hospital officials along with the Fresno County Department of Public Health are pleading with the public to think carefully about their decisions going into Thanksgiving to prevent hospitals and the healthcare system from getting overwhelmed.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Fresno County are surging at a record level.

 “The trajectory is vertical, it’s straight up,” Fresno County Emergency Medical Services Director Dan Lynch said in regards to the curve representing the increase in COVID hospitalizations in the last couple of weeks.

On Nov. 1, 102 patients with COVID-19 were hospitalized in the county, according to state data. That number on Monday was at 255 — that’s more than double in just three weeks.

“This is serious folks,” said David Luchini, the assistant director with the County Department of Public Health. “We can’t continue to spike and continue to hope that our healthcare system can be prepared.”

In an effort to bring awareness ahead of Thanksgiving, the County Department of Public Health held a virtual press conference with CEO’s and doctors representing the hospitals throughout the county.

Dr. Jeffrey Thomas, representing the hospitals within Community Medical Centers, said they have 170 patients with COVID-19 hospitalized. On Nov. 16, that number was at 107. That’s a 59% increase in a little more than a week.

“Unfortunately, this time we are going into perhaps the most dangerous and busiest time of the season with holidays and gatherings and with the surge that we know is coming,” Thomas said.

He added that their hospitals are savvy in developing plans and shifting resources from one place to another, but he said they hope the public can do their best to not overwhelm the healthcare system.

Saint Agnes Medical Center President & CEO Nancy Hollingsworth said they’ve seen a doubling in COVID hospitalizations in the last week.

Dr. Jorge Martinez with Saint Agnes said staff are concerned about “what’s coming.”

“We cannot deny that,” Martinez said.

A major concern across hospitals is the staffing shortage — this also while healthcare workers are battling with fatigue.

“It is very fatiguing. It is hard to care for patients when their family members can’t be there to support them. It is hard to watch people die when you feel somewhere in your heart that perhaps they didn’t need to,” said Dr. Lori Weichenthal, the associate program director of emergency medicine at UCSF Fresno.

Others hospitals like VA Central California and Adventist Health are seeing similar trends.

“We do feed our COVID patients into our Hanford hospital. In the last two weeks, we’ve more than doubled in the number of COVID patients,” said Terry Boggess, the infection prevention director at Adventist Health in the Central Valley.

Tulare County is also seeing a rapid increase in cases and hospitalizations.

Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia were caring for 52 patients with COVID-19 on Tuesday. up 6 from Monday and up 13 from a week ago.

“It’s definitely rising pretty rapidly,” Kaweah Delta CEO Gary Herbst said.

With Thanksgiving just right around the corner, health officials are urging residents to not gather with people outside their household and think about the impact their decisions could have.

“If you truly love your family, the most important thing you could do for them sadly is stay away from them right now & protect them,” Herbst said.

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