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California hospitals to get extra help from the military

Posted at 11:26 AM, Dec 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-29 14:26:45-05

(KERO) — With another surge in coronavirus infections expected soon, California is taking new action and there could be the hope of another potential vaccine. ABC's Mona Kosar Abdi explains.

Tuesday morning the United States military is now deploying medical troops to help California's overburned hospitals buckling under the pressure of skyrocketing COVID cases. Los Angeles County, the epicenter, is taking new action and requiring all travelers to quarantine for ten days as the region reports a 600-percent increase in deaths since November.

"On average, 9 to 10 people in L.A. County test positive for COVID-19 on average every minute," explained Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County health director.

Ninety-six-percent of hospitals in L.A. County had no room for emergency patients over the weekend. Some hospitals are now putting patients in conference rooms and even gift shops because of the lack of space.

"It's very challenging to know that patients are coming into the hospital even sicker than they normally do because we, frankly, can't take them in all the hospitals that way," said nurse Jennie Franck.

Doctors are growing more concerned as a new, possibly more contagious, mutation of the virus is confirmed in North America, reaching Canada and likely already here in the U.S.

"I'd be shocked if it weren't here already," said Dr. Todd Ellerin, ABC News medical contributor.

But the World Health Organization said so far it's found no evidence that the new mutation has caused any significant increase in hospitalizations.

In the meantime, another vaccine candidate is nearing the finish line. Nova-vax announced it's launching a phase-three trial in the U.S. It comes amid growing questions about the distribution of Pfizer's vaccine already underway.

A Walgreens in Kentucky reportedly gave doses to non-priority patients after receiving more doses than it needed for nursing home workers. Walgreens called this "an isolated situation."

"Knowing that there's a short shelf life of only a few hours after they come out of the freezers, I can understand why they would want to use it," said Dr. Laleh Gharabaghian, ABC News medical contributor.

In New York, the governor is now threatening criminal charges and $1 million in fines for vaccine fraud after a health-care provider was accused of falsely obtaining the vaccine and letting people skip the line.