Sonoma County hospitals reach high point of patients with coronavirus
People hospitalized in Sonoma County with the coronavirus reached a pandemic high point over the weekend, with 46 patients being treated in hospitals on Sunday, according to county and state data.
More than half of those hospital patients suffering with COVID-19 are at Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley hospitals.
Dr. Sundari Mase, the county’s health officer, said Monday the spike in coronavirus-related hospitalizations is a direct result of large outbreaks at 16 of the county’s 20 skilled nursing centers. Also, at least one local hospital received COVID-19 patients from San Quentin State Prison, she said, without identifying the hospital or how many inmates from the prison in Marin County were treated there.
“This is completely linked to skilled nursing facility outbreaks,” Mase said, during a press briefing. “That’s where a majority of hospitalizations or many of the hospitalizations are coming from.”
Two weeks ago, Sonoma County landed on the state’s watchlist, joining a slew of other counties struggling to contain virus transmission. That triggered state-mandated rollbacks of public health restrictions temporarily halting indoor dining and drinking at restaurants, brewpubs and wineries and shutting other businesses like personal care salons and gyms. Mase said Monday, although she needs more time to monitor whether the second wave of restrictions is helping suppress the virus, she sees no need for additional closures.
Area hospitals are also having difficulty discharging patients back to skilled nursing centers, she said, which is causing them to remain in the hospital longer even though they no longer need care there. Local hospital officials say many local skilled nursing sites have stopped taking patients because of all the COVID-19 outbreaks at these facilities.
Of the local patients hospitalized on Sunday, 28 were at Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley hospitals, which are operated by Providence St. Joseph Health Sonoma County.
Christina Harris, a spokeswoman for Providence St. Joseph Health, said hospitalization numbers change daily but she would not reveal updated figures for Monday, citing patient privacy rules.
On Sunday, Santa Rosa Memorial had 16 patients diagnosed with COVID-19, with 4 of them in the intensive-care unit, according to the state’s COVID-19 hospital online dashboard. Petaluma Valley Hospital had 12 virus patients, with 3 of them in ICU, state figures show.
The state’s hospital figures are based on a daily survey of hospitals conducted by the California Department of Public Health. The online dashboard does not list specific hospital names, but it does provide a geographic location of each hospital with a corresponding number of patients. Based on that, local hospitals easily can be distinguished.
Harris said the growing number of COVID-19 patients at Memorial and Petaluma Valley hospitals is a reflection of the overall recent escalation in coronavirus cases across the county.
Most of the virus patients at those two hospitals do not require ICU care, she said. Harris would not say if COVID-19 patients from outside the county have been transferred to the hospitals, or if any patients had come from San Quentin State Prison, again citing patient privacy rules.
Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital had 10 COVID-19 positive patients as of Sunday, 2 of them in ICU. Kaiser Permanente’s medical center in Santa Rosa had 3 positive patients, none in ICU. Sonoma Valley and Healdsburg District hospitals each respectively had 3 and 2 patients with coronavirus, and one each in ICU.
The county’s tally of COVID-19 hospitalization figures also show a similar upward trend, though the numbers sometimes slightly differ from what the state health department posts online.
Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane said Monday she’s concerned about the growing number of local residents sick with the virus needing hospital care. She said she’s also worried about the lack of available ICU beds at local hospitals. There were only 3 such beds open as of Sunday, according to county data.
But local hospital leaders, and Mase, have repeatedly said hospitals easily can add more beds, including providing 30% more than the current capacity of 67 ICU beds. County health officials say local hospitals could come up with 264 additional regular hospital beds, if needed for a surge of virus patients requiring care at one time.
“Things are shifting constantly,” Zane said, wondering if it’s time for hospitals to kick in their virus surge plans. “COVID-19 is kind of like standing on a fault line. That’s why we have to prepared.”
When Mase was asked during her press briefing Monday if she thought local hospitals should scale back elective surgeries to free up more hospital beds, the health officer said she plans to discuss the issue with hospital officials this week.
“Given the increasing numbers of hospital beds being used right now by COVID-positive persons, I think it is a discussion we'll probably have this Thursday when I have my call with the hospitals,” she said.
Harris, the spokeswoman for Memorial and Petaluma Valley hospitals, said both hospitals are able to handle the current number of COVID-19 patients, plus people admitted with other illnesses.
“Should the need arise, we are confident in our ability to increase our capacity, staffing of our ICU beds and provide COVID-19 patients with the appropriate care,” she said.
You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @pressreno.
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