Riverside County’s hospitals are seeing patient loads decrease daily, although intensive care units remain clogged, but well under half of patients are COVID-positive, Emergency Management Director Bruce Barton told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
“There are positive trends. We’re at 70% of licensed bed capacity, down from 90% (of beds occupied) in the second week of January,” Barton said during a briefing at the County Administrative Center in Riverside. “But our ICUs are still above 100% full.”
The countywide ICU bed availability remains at 0%, identical to the 11-county Southern California region. The metric was key to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Dec. 6 stay-at-home order, which he nixed two weeks ago, in anticipation of ICU availability turning a corner.
Barton said adult critical care units are under pressure, not pediatric units.
Only 29% of all hospitalizations countywide can currently be attributed to coronavirus-related complications, according to Barton. He did not disclose what the other mix of illnesses may be.
The county peaked at nearly 1,700 COVID-positive hospitalizations on Jan. 10. There are now less than 800.
Another promising trend: calls for emergency services have fallen precipitously, according to Barton.
“EMS volume is down below seasonal norms for this time of year,” he told the board. “We’re definitely below where we’ve seen our trends in the last couple of years. This time of year is normally the peak of the flu season. But we’re seeing trends coming down.”
He said the transfer of decedents from hospitals, complicated by the surge in virus-related deaths, continues to pose challenges because of limited morgue space at multiple medical facilities. However, the county is utilizing refrigerated trailers, and the coroner’s office has made additional space available, to meet demands, according to the EMD director.
The U.S. military health care teams dispatched to the county in December to bolster resources are gradually leaving the area, and none are expected to remain in March. However, the California Department of Public Health is continuing to make supplemental personnel available, Barton said.