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'Everything Has Its Limits': County-USC Medical Center ER Doctor Describes Dire Conditions, Exhausted Medical Professionals

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A doctor working at County-USC Medical Center's emergency room says this current wave of COVID-19 has gotten incredibly bad, and she is concerned that things could still get worse.

Infections, hospitalizations and deaths are up across Southern California. LA County broke a record over the weekend with more than 10,000 new cases of COVID-19, and LA's health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer nearly broke down in tears as she announced that a total of 8,000 people had died of the virus in LA County since the pandemic began.

Out in Colton, Arrowhead Regional Medical Center is officially out of ICU beds, and is working to make space for more in its conference room and cafeteria.

And even though County-USC Medical Center emergency room Dr. Erika Flores Uribe says they have seen 500 new hospitalizations, they could see 500 more very soon due to the Thanksgiving gatherings that happened.

"We are seeing a very large number of patients in the emergency departments, and I am concerned that we're not at the place where we're seeing the highest numbers we will see," she said.

Pandemic fatigue is a big part of the latest wave of infections, but if regular people are tired of staying away from family and friends and taking precautions, medical professionals are even more tired of working in such high-pressure conditions for so many months.

"All of us who are in medicine generally want to do this to help others. But it has been a long eight to nine months," she said. "Especially when we think about holiday seasons when people can gather, it makes me concerned as an emergency doctor about what kind of capacity we're gonna have in our emergency rooms and our hospitals to take care of everyone. Not only those with COVID-19, but we're still seeing our heart attacks, our strokes, the things we would see even outside of COVID."

Dr. Uribe said she hopes people will heed the warnings of doctors and public health officials to stay home as much as possible in spite of the holiday season and only celebrate with those they live with.

"We are doing everything that we can to make space, to get more people who are trained to take care of really sick people in the hospital spaces, but everything has its limits," she said. "We want to make that sure we're all doing everything that we can so that we have space, the doctors, the nurses, to take care of those who are coming into the emergency department."

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