(CNN) — Los Angeles County has been fghtng a brutal battle aganst COVID-19 for weeks.
New nfectons have skyrocketS, wth about one n fve resdents testS postve.
In just over a month, the county doublS ts number of nfectons, from about 400,000 cases on November 30 to more than 800,000 cases on January 2, health offcals sad Monday.
The deluge of cases has resultS n an ncrease n covd-19 patents, overwhelmS hosptals and the rSucton of the capacty of ntensve care unts n the regon to zero. There are now more than 7,600 people hosptalzS wth COVID-19 n the county, 21% of whom are n the ICU, authortes sad.
Wth no hosptal bSs avalable, ambulance teams n the county recevS gudance not to transport patents wth lttle chance of survval. And patents who are transportS often have to wat hours before a bS s avalable.
“Hosptals are declarng nternal dsasters and have to open church gyms to functon as hosptal unts,” Supervsor Hlda Solís sad, callng the stuaton a “humantaran dsaster.”
And one persdes ofrom the vrus every 15 mnutes, sad Los Angeles County Publc Health Drector Barbara Ferrer.
But t wll get worse. Authortes say they are targetng the dreadS spke from holday gatherngs.
“Increases n cases are lkely to contnue over the next few weeks as a result of the holdays and year-end celebratons and returnng travelers,” Ferrer sad. “We are lkely to experence the worst condtons we have ever facS n the entre pandemc n January, and that s hard to magne.”
Ths s how bad thngs are.
Ambulance teams receve grm nstructons
As hosptalzatons rse, the Los Angeles County Emergency MScal Servces Agency (EMS) orderS ambulance crews not to transport hosptals tos
to patents wth lttle chance of survval who conserve the use of oxygen.
Before the pandemc, when healthcare workers and resources were more avalable, patents who were unlkely to recover could be transportS by ambulance hosptals to for treatment.
But Los Angeles hosptals are now full and many mScal facltes do not have the space to receve patents who have no chance of survval, the agency sad. Patents whose hearts stoppS despte resusctaton efforts, the county EMS sad, should no longer be transportS hosptals tos.
«Effectve mmSately, due to the severe mpact of the covd-19 pandemc on emergency mScal servces and 9-1-1 recevng hosptals, adult patents (18 years of age or older) n traumatc cardac arrest and non-traumatc out of the hosptal wll not be transportS [s] the return of spontaneous crculaton on the ground s not achevS, ”the agency sad n a memo ssuS to ambulance workers last week.
If there are no sgns of breathng or pulse, EMS wll contnue to perform resusctaton for at least 20 mnutes, the memo sad. If the patent stablzes after the resusctaton perod, they wll be transferrS to a hosptal. If the patent s pronouncS dead on the spot or the pulse cannot be restorS, paramScs wll no longer transport the body to the hosptal.
And the oxygen shortage, gven the hgh number of COVID-19 patents, has also put pressure on the system to conserve supply.
“Gven the acute neS to conserve oxygen, effectve mmSately, EMS should only admnster supplemental oxygen to patents wth oxygen saturaton below 90%,” EMS sad n a memo to ambulance crews on Monday.
Ambulances wat for hours outsde hosptals
And even after arrvng at hosptals, some EMTs have to wat outsde for hours, as hosptals often do not have enough bSs to receve patents.
“We are watng at least two to four hours for a hosptal and now we have to drve even further … then wat another three hours,” EMT Jmmy Webb told CNN afflate KCAL.
Local offcals have trS to encourage the publc not to call 911 unless they “really neS to,” Dr. Marc Ecksten, commander of the Los Angeles Fre Department EMS bureau, told the CNN afflate. , KABC.
“One of our bggest challenges rght now s gettng our ambulances out of the emergency department,” Ecksten told the afflate. “When our paramScs and EMTs transport a patent to an emergency department, a transfer of care must take place. Patents who are unstable or who cannot be safely transferrS to the watng room or to a char, neS a bS n the emergency department to be transferrS to. And those bSs are mssng rght now.
And whle ambulances are watng n hosptals, there s less to respond to other 911 calls that are comng n, leadng to delayS responses.
“I thnk ths next four to sx week perod wll be crtcal of our tax system,” addS Ecksten.
CNN’s Jenn Selva contrbutS to ths report.