Hospitalizations Trending Down in Riverside County

Ceci Partridge & City News Service

Hospitals in Riverside County continue to contend with a shortage of intensive care unit beds, in part because of the coronavirus pandemic, but total capacity in medical facilities countywide is improving daily, Emergency Management Director Bruce Barton told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

“We’re now down to 76% of licensed hospital beds occupied, compared to 92% in the second week of January,” Barton said. “But our ICU capacity is still 114%, so clearly we’re seeing a lot of ill people in our hospitals.”

The trend line has been on a downward path since Jan. 10, when a peak of 1,675 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in the county. The number is just under 1,000 currently, according to the Riverside University Health System.

“Our COVID subset is coming down in the ICU,” Barton told the board. “There are other folks who are ill, so the surge treatment (plan) is continuing.”

The surge adjustments began in December, when medical facilities resorted to opening previously closed or unused rooms to expand critical care space. At the Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley, storage rooms were converted to treatment areas.

About 250 COVID-19 patients are undergoing treatment in ICUs countywide, Barton said, adding that three weeks ago, it was closer to 400.

The county’s overall ICU availability remains at 0%, the same as the 11-county Southern California region identified in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Dec. 6 stay-at-home order, which he rescinded on Jan. 25, citing projections that ICU space would recover to pre-surge levels within weeks.

Barton said that the federal health care professionals dispatched to the county in response to the wave of hospital admissions in December may be “standing down,” or leaving the region, but there was no specific timeline.

The EMD director also told the board that medical facilities continue to request supplemental durable equipment, such as oxygen machines, and personal protective gear, like gowns and masks, from the county, and there has been no problem meeting demand.

“We’re in good shape as far as our stock goes,” he said.

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