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San Diego County health care systems say they are prepared for potential COVID-19 surge

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Posted at 5:02 PM, Dec 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-21 20:22:19-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — With COVID-19 cases spiking again and the omicron variant continuing to spread rapidly, health officials predict another increase in hospitalizations after the holidays. Still, in San Diego County health systems say they are prepared this time around.

“We’re definitely seeing an increase in positivity rates across the county and here at UC San Diego Health,” Brendan Kremer, chief operating officer at UC San Diego Health said. “We are well prepared, as all hospitals in San Diego are at this point, to meet the surge, we have the capacity, and we have the plans to do it.”

In San Diego County, about 77 percent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated, and 86 percent received one dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine. While breakthrough cases are happening, according to county data updated on Dec. 15, the hospitalization rate for those who aren’t fully vaccinated, or vaccinated at all, was four times higher than those who are.

“San Diego County has about 370 COVID positive admissions, or presumed positive admissions, throughout the county,” Dr. Anil Keswani, chief medical officer of ambulatory care at Scripps Health in San Diego, said.

Keswani said Scripps hospitals are seeing a gradual increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations, with about 90 patients as of Tuesday morning, but he said the county is far from the peak it saw last winter. He said the hospital system is carefully watching the impact of the omicron variant.

“A lot of the people currently in the hospital are folks that are probably impacted by the delta variant, what we’re going to start to see over the next few weeks," Keswani said. "In this gradual upward trend, and hopefully we can curtail this, is that folks that are infected with omicron may be the next wave of folks that are in the hospital, and what’s really bothersome to me is this is all preventable.”

He said vaccines and boosters are still the best options to prevent serious illness.

One of the main concerns ABC 10News heard from different San Diego health care systems is keeping staff safe. If employees test positive, even with minimal or no symptoms, they must quarantine, which could create a staffing shortage during the expected surge after the holidays.

“Our concern this year is making sure we don’t get infected; we may not end up in the hospital, but if we get infected, we pull our staff out of the workforce, which makes it less likely to be available to help others," Dr. William Tseng, assistant area medical director, and the vaccine lead for Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, said."So with our population, we asked them to make sure you get back to protecting yourself, putting the PPE on, social distancing, and handwashing, making sure we don’t end up catching it.”

Tseng continued to encourage vaccinations and boosters and said one of the best things anyone can do before gathering or traveling for the holidays is get tested for COVID-19.

“Testing is really the key to early detection and making sure you isolate or quarantine if you need to so you don’t spread this thing,” he said. “In terms of beds and staff, we’ve staffed up to make sure that we’re ready, we want everybody to have a safe holiday, but we’re ready, and we’re here if you need us. We’re better prepared; we have more vaccinated people, we should be able to take care of everyone.”