SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Hospital leaders across San Diego County say they support Gov. Gavin Newsom's new regional stay-at-home order, which uses ICU bed capacity as the metric to impose stricter restrictions because of COVID-19.
"We're tight now. This is a serious situation, and we need everybody's help," said Scripps Health CEO Chris Van Gorder.
Under the new order, if a region ever has less than 15% of its ICU beds available, the state would put an "emergency brake" in place, imposing more restrictions on businesses and activities.
Van Gorder said several San Diego hospital leaders spoke with state health officials this week about the order and agreed the ICU metric was as good as any number to measure the severity of the pandemic.
He said running out of ICU beds would devastate the hospital system, impacting anyone who needs critical care, not just COVID-19 patients.
"To be really blunt about it, people could die if we don't have the right equipment, beds and trained personnel to be able to take care of them when they have their emergency," Van Gorder said.
A spokesperson from Sharp HealthCare echoed those sentiments, sending this statement to ABC 10News: "We want people to stay healthy and out of the hospital for COVID-19 by following safe practices so that ICU beds are available for patients who've been in serious accidents, cannot breathe on their own or had invasive surgeries."
Van Gorder said grouping counties into regions make sense because many of them already fall under mutual aid agreements to help each other out.
"Imperial County is a classic example," he said. "Their hospitals back in July filled up very quickly, and San Diego was a lifeboat ... When you look at the broader region, there's a lot of hospitals within those regions, there may be some hospitals that aren't as impacted as other some other hospitals, so they're available and they're expected to take patients."
According to state numbers, the Southern California region -- which San Diego County is a part of -- currently has 20.6% of their ICU beds available. Experts warn it could fall below the 15% within the coming week.
Hospital leaders say San Diegans can help by wearing masks, social distancing and following other health and safety guidelines.