Central Valley ICU bed shortage triggers surge order

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(MARIPOSA COUNTY, Calif.) Twelve counties in the state's Central Valley are so overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients that state health officials announced a surge Friday requiring other hospitals to accept transfer patients.

The transfer order is automatically triggered when an area has less than 10 percent of ICU beds available for three consecutive days. This is the first time the order has been triggered, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Hospitals throughout the San Joaquin Valley counties of Calaveras, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne are overflowing with COVID-19 patients.

The region had just 8.6 percent of beds available Thursday, according to information from the state's public health department. Statewide, however, there is 18.3 percent of ICU beds available, reflecting a growing outbreak in the Golden State's agriculture center.

According to the transfer order, all "general acute care hospitals" that have available ICU beds must accept transfer patients "when clinically appropriate and directed."

This reflects a disturbing trend, throughout much of the rural areas of the state, of rising cases and seven day averages. On August 6, the seven-day average was 239, according to state data. As of Sept. 7, the seven-day average of new cases is 448. According to the same data, the total number of cases from Aug. 25 to Sept. 7 for the Fresno area was 184,280.

Rural counties like Mariposa and Tuolumne are left with few resources to treat the steadily growing number of COVID-19 patients. The former has no available ICU beds and the latter has only one.

A more complete list of the available ICU beds at hospitals throughout the Central Valley can be found here.

“While the state works to further increase the number of eligible Californians vaccinated, we must take steps to protect the unvaccinated who are more at risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19,” state public health officials said Friday in a statement. “This action will ensure the state's health care delivery system is prepared and can respond appropriately.”

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