Lancaster, CA

Coronavirus hospitalizations taper in Lancaster

Don Simkovich

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A recent coronavirus surge has tapered off at the Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster where an emergency field hospital was erected by Samaritan’s Purse and put into use.

After each holiday, the hospital had higher numbers of patients needing treatment but now there’s a reduction in the number of patients needing treatment from January 15 to January 22. Hospital spokesperson Cynthia Farusto says that’s good news and a hopeful sign.

“Our numbers have slowed down and we’re hoping the numbers decline in the coming week, but of course we don’t know. We saw an increase after Halloween, Thanksgiving so that’s why we were preparing for the impact of more cases after Christmas and New Year’s.”

Farusto says having the temporary hospital, built as a series of eight tent units, has relieved the burden on the main facility. “It’s a huge help. They’ve treated about 55 patients and yesterday they treated 30.”

The temporary facility is a 54-bed specialized respiratory care unit and is expected to continue functioning through mid-February, says Farusto. Administrators will then assess its continued need.

Antelope Valley Hospital and the City of Lancaster reached out to Samaritan's Purse to request support as their hospital was over capacity. Now the Emergency Field Hospital, located in the parking lot of Antelope Valley Hospital, is fully operational. It is the third location in the United States with a Samaritan's Purse field hospital.

Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris says he was “in awe at how quickly this field hospital became a reality.”

During mid-January, Los Angeles County experienced one virus-related death every six minutes.

The Los Angeles County public health department has released figures showing that 52, 130 patients total have been hospitalized in the county.

The death rate is 134 per 100,000 people, one-tenth of a percent. The figures don’t include Long Beach and Pasadena since they have their own public health departments. Statewide, on January 18, California was the first state to reach 3 million cases of Covid-19.

The highest number of deaths in the county have been among: Hispanics, 7,123; Whites 3,242; Asians 1,836 and African-Americans 1,164.

Cities with the highest number of Covid-19 cases as reported by the county’s public health department are: South Gate, 3,293; Pacoima 2,849; Sylmar 2,820 and Baldwin Park, 2,440.

The trend occurring in Lancaster and the Antelope Valley mirrors the trend happening across LA County. The public health department notes in a Jan. 22 report that “new cases are considerably lower this week, with a decrease of 30 percent in the seven-day average of daily cases from last week. The test positivity rate has also dropped to 12.7 percent.”

On November 1, the test positivity rate was 3.8 percent.

LA County has given more than 441,000 doses of vaccine with 352,000 being first round doses. Supply is limited and the county can only vaccinate 1 in 4 residents who are currently eligible.

The coronavirus surge has created “a pileup of ships” at the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach, according to an article on Freightwaves.com. It’s a big logjam with 46 ships at berth and 46 at anchor. Normally, about a dozen ships are at anchor.

A labor shortage and split shifts have led to slowdowns in unloading containers and the problem is expected to continue for the next few weeks.

The article also states that fewer container ships usually travel from China to the U.S. during the Chinese New Years. That break gives the ports a chance to clear out congestion. However, liners are deciding to sail instead of canceling during the 2021 Chinese New Year.

Los Angeles County residents who want a Covid vaccine have to go through a multi-step process. Start by logging on to the county’s website through public health. Appointments can also be made by calling 833-540-0473.

First, know if you’re eligible or not.

Priority is being given to healthcare workers who have the highest risk of exposure, especially those in long-term care facilities. The goal is to get 500,000 health care workers vaccinated by the end of the month.

Long-term care facility residents are also eligible.

Both categories are part of Phase 1A.

People age 65 and older are part of Phase 1B and includes workers in the following:

  • Education and Childcare
  • Emergency services
  • Food and agriculture

1B Tier 2 covers those in the following:

  • Transportation and logistics
  • Industrial, commercial, residential, and sheltering facilities and services
  • Critical manufacturing

Others who are officially considered high risk include inmates at state and county jails plus the homeless.

The next grouping, Phase 1C, is expected to begin in March. This includes:

Persons 50-64 years old

People 16-49 years of age and have an underlying health condition or disability which increases their risk of severe COVID-19

Those at risk of exposure at work in the following sectors:

  • Water and wastewater
  • Defense
  • Energy
  • Chemical and hazardous materials
  • Communications and IT
  • Financial services
  • Government operations / community-based essential functions

Phase 2 vaccinations don’t yet have openings and they’re in the lowest risk category of ages 16 to 49 with no underlying conditions.

  • The Forum in Inglewood
  • The Pomona Fairplex
  • Cal State Northridge
  • The L.A. County Office of Education in Downey
  • Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia

There are also 75 smaller vaccination sites across the county.

How safe is the vaccine?

The county is saying on the Vaccinate LA website that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are safe and effective and “stops people from getting sick.”

However, it’s not known if the vaccine stops recipients from spreading Covid-19 to others. So “everyone must still wear a face covering, physically distance, and not gather.”

Another question is that if the virus continues to mutate then will the current vaccinations be effective in the weeks and months to come?

The engineering association IEEE says that researchers at MIT are using machine learning to probe the variants and decide which ones pose the biggest threats. It’s called a “real time companion to vaccine development.”

Another way to battle the virus, especially in Los Angeles County, is exercise outdoors and maintain a low sugar intake.

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I interview entrepreneurs, and dig into the news around Southern California, giving a voice to business owners, artists and more. I also co-write the thriller novel series Tom Stone Detective Stories.

Pasadena, CA
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