Palomar Health preparing for increase in San Diego County COVID-19 hospitalizations as cases surge in California

Posted at 6:07 AM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-01 09:07:22-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- COVID-19 related hospitalizations continue to sure across California.

Without any intervention, Gov. Gavin Newsom said current projections show hospitalizations could increase two to three times the current amount in just one month.

“We’ve seen a significant increase, 89 percent increase over the 14-day period of people who have been hospitalized that have tested positive for COVID-19,” Newsom said during a press briefing Monday.

Hospitalizations are rising in San Diego County, with local hospitals seeing more COVID-19 cases than they ever have.

“We’re seeing about three times the number that we saw just a couple of months ago,” said Dr. Omar Khawaja, the Chief Medical Officer for Palomar Health. “About 25 percent of the positive patients are ending up in the ICU; that’s less than we saw during the first spike.”

Khawaja said he expects more hospitalizations in the coming weeks as COVID-19 cases related to Thanksgiving gatherings start to show up.

In Escondido, Palomar Medical Center has had room to handle more COVID-19 patients from other hospitals for several months now. A federal medical station is set up inside the hospital with 202 beds that haven’t been used yet.

Khawaja said they’re now ready to take on patients from other hospitals across the county that become overwhelmed, but the set-up is not meant for ICU patients.

“It could be beds that we would be offload some of the less sick patients from other systems into there so they can handle the sicker patients; we don’t have a solid plan for it yet,” he said. “I don’t think it’ll be activated in the next week; it may be three or four weeks out, so we’re planning for that now.”

Khawaja said the details are actively being discussed with other medical officers across the county.

“The county and hospital systems are all working very well together, collaborating, communicating on at least a weekly basis. We are actively discussing right now, what would it look like, how would we open it, and what type of patients would go into there,” he said. “Are we worried? Absolutely. Is the spike coming very quickly? Yes, but we do have some capacity and redundancy available now, and we are planning to have even more."

Creating more capacity could include scaling back on the number of elective surgeries scheduled, but this time Khawaja said it would look much different than what we saw months ago.

“What we’ve done is essentially looked at surgeries and classified them in terms of how long can this be put off to be safe, we all saw that JUST shutting everything down just let to really, just poor patient care, and we don’t want to do that again.”