California battles coronavirus surge amid Moderna vaccine emergency use

Southern California ICU capacity remains at 0%
Virus Outbreak US Surge
Posted at 8:42 PM, Dec 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-20 00:11:58-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Governor Gavin Newsom said Friday that more than 670,000 doses of the new Moderna vaccine could be in the state as early as next week.

Unlike the first Pfizer vaccine, it does not require ultra-low temperature freezers, so experts predict the rollout logistics will be much smoother. While the new vaccine is promising, the fight against the surge continues.

The FDA's Emergency Use Authorization of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine could not have come at a more dire time.

"[There has been a] 58% increase over the last 14 days, now over 3400 Californians [are] in our ICU's," Governor Gavin Newsom said in a social media COVID-19 update Friday.

As more people get sick after Thanksgiving gatherings, space, staff, and resources in our hospital systems are dwindling. San Diego County's ICU capacity is now at 19%, while the Southern California region is 0%.

"When you see 0%, that doesn't mean there's no capacity, no one's allowed into an ICU," the Governor explained. "It means we are now in our surge phase, which is about 20% additional capacity that we can make available."

Hospitals are now repurposing regular beds into ICU beds, postponing non-essential procedures, and moving around staff to accommodate the surge.

"We are still going to have accidents, unfortunately," Dr. Abisola Olulade with Sharp Rees Stealy said. "Someone may have the need for emergency surgery. All of these things don't go away just because we are in the middle of a pandemic."

Dr. Olulade says while the Moderna vaccine rollout will undoubtedly help slow the surge, it is not the end-all-be-all.

"The vaccine is not going to help someone that is in the ICU now," Dr. Olulade explained. "It's really possibly not going to help for the next few months. It does take a while before you achieve herd immunity or when enough people have gotten the vaccine, and that could be several months."

That is why, in the meantime, she believes it is vital that we continue to do our part in protecting ourselves and others.

"If past events are predictors of the future, then we can see that the upcoming holidays are a very risky time because we tend to see these numbers go up drastically after holiday celebrations," Dr. Olulade said. "This is just the end of the beginning of the pandemic. The vaccine is not going to bring this to a quick end. We are still going to have to wear masks, [and] we are still going to have to distance. All of these things are so important in terms of controlling this."