Jun 29, 2020 - Health

Los Angeles County could run out of hospital beds in weeks, officials warn

A man wearing a mask.

Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Health officials in Los Angeles County are sounding the alarm over a sudden and rapid surge in new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, the LA Times reports.

Why it matters: The uptick has the potential to overwhelm the area's medical system, with health officials now projecting that LA County could run out of hospital beds in two to three weeks, according to the Times. Intensive care unit beds could reach their capacity sometime in July.

Between the lines: The recent spike has coincided with the relaxing of restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. California is in the third phase of Gov. Gavin Newsom's four-stage plan to reopen the state.

  • The transmission rate has increased since the state began easing the rules: In early May, every person who contracted the virus infected fewer than one person, on average. Now, each person with the virus infects an average of 1.26 people.
  • Newsom on Sunday ordered LA County and six others to close bars amid the new surge in cases.

What they're saying: “We are seeing an increase in transmission. We’re seeing more people get sick and go into the hospital. This is very much a change in the trajectory of the epidemic over the past several days. It’s a change for the worse and a cause for concern,” said Christina Ghaly, LA County’s director of health services.

  • Assuming the rate of transmission continues at the current rate, "we are at risk of running out of hospital beds if we don’t take steps to increase that capacity within the next two to three weeks,” said Roger Lewis, director of the COVID-19 demand modeling unit for LA County.
  • Lewis also pointed out that it can take three to four weeks after initial exposure for patients to become sick enough to be hospitalized. "So even if steps are taken immediately to reduce the spread in the community, we do expect to see a continued uptick in the next two to four weeks,” he added.
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