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'We Really Are At A Breaking Point': Doctors, Nurses Exhausted As Riverside Hospitals Flood With COVID Patients

RIVERSIDE (CBSLA) -- The new year has started with record-breaking hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients across Southern California.

Doctors in Riverside County said they are overworked as they try to save lives.

With COVID cases and deaths reaching record highs in Los Angeles County, doctors and nurses across the area are pleading with everyone to heed the warnings.

"We really are at a breaking point. We are setting records every day in terms of patients we are caring for patients who have COVID-19," said Dr. Nicole Van Groningen, an MD at Cedars-Sinai.

Governor Gavin Newsom is deploying the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to six area hospitals to assist and assess and upgrade oxygen systems as needed.

Currently, many hospital internal oxygen delivery systems are being overwhelmed by the volume of oxygen flow required to treat patients with coronavirus-related respiratory issues.

But amid the stories of tragedy, Dr. Steven Kim, the chairman of the Emergency Department at Riverside Community Hospital, said Thursday was a little bit slower than it had been over the past two weeks.

Kim said a slow New Year's Eve delivered some relief to his staff. The weekend before, the hospital had to convert its cafeteria into an alternative care area to treat patients.

"Anytime we have a little bit of a break with the number of patients coming to the emergency department it gives our staff, our physicians, our nurses to just sort of recharge," Kim saied.

The break isn't expected to last as the first and second weeks of January will most likely bring a surge of COVID-19 patients to the hospital from Christmas and New Year's Eve gatherings.

"This is a very serious condition. It's completely out of control right now in Los Angeles," said Dr. Michael Hirt, medical director at the Center for Integrative Medicine. "If there was ever a time to focus on your health, this is the time."

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Friday reported 20,414 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 207 deaths, bringing countywide totals to 790,582 cases and 10,552 deaths.

Doctors are nurses are pleading with the public to keep following COVID-19 health guidelines. Dr. Kim added they will know in about 10 days if Southern California hospitals will be in big trouble as a result of holiday gatherings.

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