County officials expecting a rise in COVID hospitalizations

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Yolo County is keeping a close eye on its two hospitals, both of which are near capacity with increasingly overwhelmed staff.

Sutter Davis and Woodland Memorial hospitals have a combined 14 licensed ICU beds and 75 medical/surgical beds, according to Dr. Aimee Sisson, the county’s health officer.

On Tuesday, there were just two ICU beds available and one medical/surgical bed.

The vast majority of those beds are not currently filled with COVID-19 patients; rather, on Tuesday, there were 11 total COVID-19 patients in the two hospitals, three of them in intensive care.

But with the unprecedented spike in new cases thanks to the Omicron surge, fears are growing of spike in COVID-19 patients as well.

“One of the areas we are following closely with concern is COVID-19 hospitalizations,” said Sisson. “Currently they are well below the peak of 34 hospitalizations last winter with 11 COVID-19-positive patients right now.”

However, she said, “we know from prior surges that hospitalizations peak approximately two weeks after cases peak. So we expect hospitalizations to continue to rise for at least two weeks.”

There is a silver lining, however: “Hospitalizations have not increased as much as cases have increased,” said Sisson.

“Compared to the last two surges, the current surge shows a much larger gap between cases and hospitalizations. While some of this large gap between cases and hospitalizations may simply be explained by how quickly cases have risen, without enough time passing yet for hospitalizations to catch up, another explanation for this decoupling of hospitalizations from cases is immunity due to vaccination and prior infection.”

While that decoupling is good news, Sisson said, “our hospitals are far from out of the woods during this surge.

“Yolo hospitals have very few empty beds right now and fewer staff than ever.”

Using a sports analogy, Sisson said, “there is no second string of doctors and nurses on the bench waiting to come into the game if and when more of the huge number of current cases gets sick enough to need hospital care.

“The entire team is on the court,” she said. “The game is in triple overtime, and they’re exhausted and, in many cases, sick themselves with COVID.

“While Omicron, on average, comes with half the risk of hospitalization compared to prior variants, having four times as many cases, in this surge for example, would still mean twice as many hospitalizations as the last surge.

“Our hospitals are bracing for a rough few weeks ahead,” said Sisson.

The staffing impact is not just being felt at the county’s hospitals.

On Monday, for example, the Kaiser clinic in Davis announced its pharmacy will offer limited hours this week, open only from noon to 5:30 p.m., because of staffing issues.

A message to members encouraged them to use Kaiser’s mail-order pharmacy for any non-urgent prescriptions and said, “we look forward to the very near future when the pharmacy resumes normal hours.”

During Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Gary Sandy of Woodland said, “this is a really tough time on some of our existing systems.”

“I was talking with a friend last night who had her medical appointments deferred because of the situation at the hospitals and I think those are really uncounted victims of this health crisis that we don’t spend enough time thinking about,” he said.

The “incredible disruption” that’s happening in our healthcare systems and hospitals, Sandy added, is significant.

“It’s significant with people facing significant risks because of it, entirely unrelated to COVID except for this disruption that it’s posing.”

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