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Growing concern among health experts as COVID cases rise in Kern County

“Southwest is beyond their licensed capacity."
COVID-19 hospitalizations
Posted at 5:26 PM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-26 00:12:56-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — With this surge in COVID-19 cases across the state and in Kern County, hospitals are doing all they can to keep up with rising demands. But, one hospital is already overcapacity in their ICU and public health says the county hasn't even reached the peak yet.

The Kern County Public Health Department says the projected peak for COVID case numbers should be around September 13th. But hospitalizations might lag and be about two weeks after that, around the end of next month.

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Bruce Peters with Mercy Southwest says the hospital ICU beds have filled up. The medical center has at least 65 COVID-positive patients but that’s without numbers from their emergency room, so the actual number is higher.

“Southwest is beyond their licensed capacity. It has a licensed capacity of 82. We have 98 down there today. So very busy,” said Peters.

Out of the eight ICU patients at Mercy, Peters says seven of them are on ventilators.

According to the state dashboard of cases, as of August 23rd, there are 45 COVID patients in the ICU and only 35 beds remain in Kern County. Now there’s growing concern about those numbers since there is still a month before we are expected to reach peak hospitalizations.

“We are stretching and we are continuing to focus on the caregivers, the patients that we have. Both COVID positive as well as non-COVID,” said Ken Keller with Dignity Health's Bakersfield Memorial Hospital.

Even though the third wave wasn’t a surprise, Kern County Public Health Services Director Brynn Carrigan says it came quicker than many thought.

“We’ve been learning as we go. It was nice to have that sort of lull in our cases, but then the Delta variant came in, and then we started to see a significant increase really quickly. I think that we were a little bit surprised to see how quickly the Delta variant did take off. But you know, we’re prepared. We’ve been through this two times before and so we just responded as quickly as we possibly could.”

But, compared to the last two surges and the past almost year and a half of fighting this virus, Dignity Hospitals say they are not short-supplied on required resources.

“We’ve noted that with each surge in each cycle, we get better informed on the preparations and planning activities that we would need in order to treat these patients. One of those is making sure we have the resources available, equipment, PPE,” explained Keller.

Dr. Hemmal Kothary with Dignity Health says that in the next 7-10 days, doctors from across the health care community in the county will have weekly meetings to keep each other updated on events and share resources if needed.