In April, with California coronavirus Among the lowest rates in the country, many state nurses have flown to different parts of America to help fight the pandemic. This Christmas, the Golden State hospitals are desperate.
“You never really know if you’re going to have enough staff,” said Valerie Ewald, who was a nurse in the intensive care unit at UCLA’s Santa Monica Medical Center for nearly 20 years.
“It’s a lot of calling and cuddling and begging,” she says. “It hit us and all the hospitals in California. But the Los Angeles area is really hard hit.
California has the highest number of new daily positive cases in the United States – an average of more than 40,000 cases per day over the past week, with about 250 daily deaths on average during that period. On December 23, it became the first U.S. state to exceed 2 million known positive cases – with the second million cases occurring just in the previous six weeks, compared to 10 months for the first million.
The crisis is particularly acute in southern California where, at the time of writing, there were no beds available in the ICUs. In LA County, the country’s most populous, the death rate over the past seven days has averaged over three per hour.
“It’s a viral tsunami,” said Robert Kim-Farley, professor of epidemiology at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and a former senior official in the Los Angeles Department of Public Health. “It’s so much bigger than anything we’ve known before.”
The difference, he suggested, had been the combined effects of complacency, economic desperation and the whirlwind of family vacations at the end of the year: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas.
While the number of new daily cases in the state is more than 20 times higher than when lockdown orders were first enforced in April, Californians’ fear around the virus is considerably lower than it is. was at the time, according to the Center for at the University of Southern California. Social and Economic Research, which conducts a bimonthly survey assessing attitudes towards the pandemic.
“People have become less sensitive to rising case rates, less sensitive to risk than at the start of the pandemic, ”said Kyla Thomas, a sociologist at the center, although she noted that the researchers observed the same pattern in the most of the country.
Data from December 22 suggests the average perceived likelihood of catching coronavirus among Californians was 23%, down from 30% in April. The average perceived likelihood of dying from Covid-19 has fallen to 16%, from 29% earlier in the year.
In LA County, the survey also suggested that nearly a third of those polled had visited a friend, neighbor or relative in the past week – or had been visited by people.
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“While the survey is representative of LA County residents,” the health department said in a statement urging membership, “over 3,000,000 residents are not following safety guidelines that direct us to not to gather with people outside our immediate home. ”
As California sought to increase treatment capacity, nurse unions have resisted state efforts to relax minimum requirements for the number of nurses per patient, a move doctors say would dramatically worsen quality. of care and would put nurses at even greater risk. The California Nurses Association had staged strikes to oppose the move, and a number of hospitals reversed planned changes.
More than 60,000 health care workers in the state have caught Covid-19, according to the California Department of Public Health, with at least 240 deaths.
“Nurses stand together, always, and we are never afraid,” said Mendy Baxter, a Texas emergency nurse who has worked in California since February, first in San Antonio and more recently in Salinas. The hospital where she works – the Natividad Medical Center – has erected tents outside the main building to take care of the sick.
“It’s just all we can do to keep our heads above water,” Ms. Baxter said. “The hospitals are full, the beds are full, there is nowhere to move patients once you have taken them in and started caring for them.”
According to Aya Healthcare, one of the nation’s leading “travel nurse” contractors, as of Dec. 21, 4,390 nursing positions were open in California, by far the highest number in the country. Nationally, the number of vacancies for “crisis” positions has increased by more than 90% over the past month. Compared to the same period last year, the number of vacant nursing positions is almost 200% higher.
With just over 1% availability of intensive care beds statewide at Christmas, Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, has looked further, to countries like Taiwan and Australia, to find nursing nurses. intensive, building on the relationships created by its other crisis of 2020 – Forest fires.
Other measures taken by the governor included emergency training – in as little as two days – to bring nurses from other disciplines to the ICU. This has sparked even more concern among nursing groups, who argue that the staffing shortage was a “fabricated crisis.” Hospitals have been accused of laying off nurses and cutting contractors’ wages during the “quieter” months of the pandemic.
Turning to the new year, Mr Newsom told a press conference that vaccination efforts have made him “excited that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but aware that we are still in the tunnel “. Just over 70,000 people in California – mostly health workers – had received a coronavirus vaccine as of December 21.
Much of the state will be under order to stay home until 2021. To deter travelers, some popular getaway destinations have excluded tourists. In Tahoe, the area of northern California that is usually packed with skiers at Christmas, local authorities have placed additional restrictions on accommodation, urging short-term rental service Airbnb to notify guests of the order to stay at. the House. Airbnb said it informed hosts of the guidelines, with any action or refund being at the host’s discretion.
Among those who had to cancel their trip to Tahoe was Josh Larney, who lives in Oakland and works at WeWork. There was “definitely some frustration around the cancellation,” he said, “but that’s the story of 2020.”