Hospitals in Orange County Prepare for COVID Surge After Dire Warning

December 12, 2020 Updated: December 13, 2020

Hospital staff and intensive care unit (ICU) operations in Orange County are preparing to handle the ongoing “Thanksgiving surge” in positive COVID-19 cases that officials say is currently taking place throughout Southern California.

Hospital emergency rooms throughout the county have already set up tents outside their walls to act as triage centers next to their entrances. However, only one patient was seen being taken into any of the tents on Dec. 11, as part of a sample survey by The Epoch Times which included three area hospitals.

Dr. Philip Robinson, the director of infection prevention at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, told The Epoch Times that his hospitals in Newport Beach and Irvine are prepared.

“Although we are experiencing a COVID surge as all hospitals are, we currently have capacity at both hospitals,” Robinson said in an email. “Many of the COVID positive patients we are seeing now had gathered with people outside their household during the Thanksgiving holiday.”

Hoag’s communications representative didn’t release the percentage of capacity available at the hospitals when asked by The Epoch Times. However, the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) reported that ICU capacity in the 11-county Southern California region dropped to 6.2 percent on Dec. 11.

Epoch Times Photo
A nurse looks into an emergency triage tent set up outside Hoag Memorial Hospital in Irvine, Calif., on Dec. 11, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Epoch Times Photo
Emergency triage tents set up outside hospital walls in Orange County, Calif., on Dec. 11, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Dr. Carl Schultz, the medical director for the county’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS), issued an emergency directive to hospitals on Dec. 9, warning of a potential collapse of the system.

“The health care system in Orange County is now in crisis resulting from an overwhelming increase in the number of COVID infected patients. The increasing daily case averages is likely to push hospitalizations even higher,” Schultz stated.

“Hospitals are overwhelmed with admitted patients to both the floors and the ICUs. At the current rate of deterioration, the EMS system may collapse unless emergency directives are implemented now.”

The emergency directive urged hospitals to activate surge plans, establish alternative treatment areas in emergency departments to expand capacity, cancel all elective surgeries, apply for state waivers, and establish emergency operations centers.

Hoag’s Robinson said his hospitals have been working closely with the county and keeping detailed records to ensure they’re ready.

“Since we cared for the first patient in the state back in January, our team has meticulously tracked the number of available beds, ventilators, personal protective equipment, pharmaceuticals, and many other supplies on a daily basis,” Robinson said.

“Hoag’s readiness during the COVID-19 pandemic also includes daily communication between our Infection Prevention team and OCHCA authorities in order to stay abreast of rapidly evolving best practices. This guidance allows us to ensure that we are keeping our patients and our health care workers safe as we continue to face this challenge.”

Orange County has continued setting new daily COVID-19 hospitalization records. On Dec. 11, the number of patients hospitalized with the disease jumped to 1,122, up from 1,025 a day earlier, and ICU patients rose from 257 to 265—an all-time high.

The county reported 2,655 new confirmed COVID cases and 22 more deaths on Dec. 11, raising the cumulative case total to 97,302, with 1,662 reported fatalities.