Around 1 in 5 Los Angeles County residents are testing positive for COVID-19, and hospitals are beyond capacity.

By Julie Mazziotta
January 05, 2021
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APU GOMES/AFP via Getty
| Credit: APU GOMES/AFP via Getty

With hospitals beyond capacity due to an overwhelming number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Los Angeles County is having to refuse care to patients with a low chance of survival.

Emergency Medical Service (EMS) workers have been instructed not to bring patients who are unlikely to survive to L.A. hospitals, as there is no room to treat them. This includes both COVID-19 patients and people with other conditions, such as heart attacks, strokes or those in car accidents.

"Effective immediately, due to the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on EMS and 9-1-1 Receiving Hospitals, adult patients (18 years of age or older) in blunt traumatic and nontraumatic out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) shall not be transported [if] return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) is not achieved in the field," the agency said in a memo issued to ambulance workers last week, CNN reported.

EMS workers are to attempt to revive patients who are not breathing or do not have a pulse, and if they stabilize, workers can take them to the hospital. But if the patient does not regain a pulse or is declared dead, EMS workers should not move them to a hospital, the county EMS said.

L.A. County is also dealing with an oxygen shortage, and EMS said that workers should try to limit their use.

"Given the acute need to conserve oxygen, effective immediately, EMS should only administer supplemental oxygen to patients with oxygen saturation below 90%," EMS said in a memo on Monday.

L.A. County hospitals are out of room, with 1 in 5 residents testing positive for COVID-19. According to L.A. County's Department of Public Health, there are just 17 open ICU beds across all area hospitals as of Jan. 4. At Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in South L.A., workers are putting patients in the gift shop and lobby, and incoming patients have to wait in a tent outside.

California as a whole is dealing with a massive surge of COVID-19 cases that health experts say is the result of Thanksgiving travel and celebrations in November, followed by Christmas gatherings last month. On Jan. 2, there were 52,197 new cases reported in California, the second-most of the entire pandemic, and as of Jan. 4 just over 22,000 people in the state are hospitalized with the virus.  

Since March, more than 2,474,500 California residents have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least 26,995 people have died from the virus, The New York Times reported.

"This is a deadly disease, this is a deadly pandemic," Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday, according to the Times. "It remains more deadly today than at any point in the history of the pandemic."

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This story originally appeared on people.com