FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE) – ‘S.O.S’: that’s the message Central Valley hospitals have sent out to residents this week, saying beds are filling up fast and hundreds of employees are out sick with COVID-19 themselves.

“This is the worst that it’s been,” said David Bacci, the regional vice president of the Hospital Council in the Central Valley.

According to CEO Gary Herbst, 284 Kaweah Health employees are currently out on a COVID leave of absence.

Dr. Kenny Banh with UCSF says more than 10% of their staff, faculty, and residents are out with COVID.

At Valley Children’s Hospital, Dr. Nael Mhaissen says more than 100 employees are out with COVID.

Over the weekend, these hospitals sent out a virtual SOS message.

Kaweah Health in reports a 101% occupancy, with 29 patients in the emergency department waiting for a bed to open up.

However, Dr. Banh with UCSF Fresno says it doesn’t matter how many beds there are if there’s no staff to take care of the patients.

“It’s not even about having beds. It’s about having nurses, respiratory techs, and doctors that can take care of you. If you don’t have that, the bed by itself means nothing,” he said.

Bacci says ambulance providers to these hospitals in the valley have stopped transporting non-emergency calls to the ER.

He also says the hospitals are relying on travel nurses to help them keep up with the influx of patients, as they expect the number of COVID cases to continue to rise until March.

“Our hospitalizations come about two weeks after a lot of the positive numbers are starting to show up from people testing positive. Those numbers keep increasing day after day, so we expect our COVID hospitalizations over the next couple of weeks are going to potentially double,” he said.