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LA County Hospitals In A Crisis On Christmas Day As Officials Beg People To Stay Home

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — With no relief in sight, hospitals across Los Angeles County are in crisis mode on Christmas Day as the number of coronavirus patients admitted continues to rise at unprecedented rates.

"We're are the point where our system is being stretched and really, really challenged in a way that it's never been before," Dr. Tasha Dixon, the lead family physician at Martin Luther King, Jr. Outpatient Center in L.A. County. "We are over capacity at all of our facilities. It's at the point where we are now having to be creative and shuffle our services, start to cancel those services that may not be as emergent for our patients."

On Friday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported 6,708 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 — another daily record — 20% of whom were being treated in intensive care units.

On Thursday, L.A. County recorded 148 deaths from the coronavirus, a record for the second straight day.

With many families expected to ignore California's stay-at-home orders and gather on Christmas Day, and thousands expected to attend indoor church services, those numbers will likely rise even more. L.A. County Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly said the daily number of COVID patients in hospitals is likely to exceed 7,500 by next week.

"I mean, I just scream, I don't get it, people aren't getting it, they're not seeing what we see, and it's devastating, seeing people being sick without their families," phlebotomy lab assistant Vanessa Orozco told CBSLA Thursday.

Hospital Chaplain Sister Mary Jo Piccione, Sp visits a cover possitive patient at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, CA on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020 in Apple Valley, CA. Sister Mary Jo is part of the Sisters of Providence order. She has been a nun for more than 50 years and she she has worked as an RN. She is now a Chaplain. She works with patients and their families. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

L.A. County officials were pleading with people to stay home and avoid Christmas Day gatherings and indoor church services. Last weekend, the county was forced to allow houses of worship to hold indoor services following a Supreme Court ruling on the controversial issue.

"Attending an indoor service will result in transmission of COVID-19 and additional hospitalizations that the healthcare system cannot handle at this time," the L.A. County Public Health Department said in a statement Friday.

"No matter what a Superior Court judge says and given what's happening now, it is simply too risky to gather indoors with other people who do not live with you."

In a letter to priests and pastors of the Archdiocese of L.A., Archbishop Jose H. Gomez still recommended that churches hold outdoor services, even though indoor services were allowed.

According to Ghaly, 96% of L.A. County's 70 emergency-room-equipped hospitals diverted ambulance traffic to other medical facilities at some point during the day on Tuesday due to overcrowding -- up from the normal average of 33% for this time of year.

Ghaly said about 750 new COVID patients are being admitted to hospitals every day.

As of Thursday morning, the county's 70 "911-receiving" hospitals had 723 total available beds, and just 63 ICU beds -- 42 of them adult beds and 21 pediatric.

"Most hospitals are reporting officially no available ICU beds, already having surpassed the licensed ICU capacity and the capabilities of their available staff," Ghaly said Wednesday.

RELATED: OC Reports 3,490 New COVID-19 Cases, 1 Death; Hospitalizations Set New Record

The county has an overall licensed ICU capacity of about 2,500 beds. According to the L.A. County DHS, hospitals surged their capacity to operate a daily average of 2,660 ICU beds last week. On average, about 37% of those beds were occupied by coronavirus patients.

The average number of hospitalized COVID patients in the county has increased by 547% since Nov. 9. Average daily deaths are up 467%, from about 12 per day in early November to 69 per day last week. Average daily new cases have soared by 907%.

The ICU capacity in Southern California as a whole is at zero.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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