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Medical Experts Sound Alarm As Orange County Again Hits COVID-19 Hospitalization Record

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) -- Orange County COVID-19 hospitalizations are still surging.

On Wednesday, the county reported 974 people are hospitalized for the virus — which is another new record. Currently, 239 patients are in the ICU.

Hospitals across the county are sounding the alarm as ICU capacity continues to dwindle, raising concerns about how much longer before medical centers become overwhelmed.

"Today, we're handling out patients and all their critical needs," said KPC Health CEO Peter Baronoff.

He said the situation could change at any time, so the hospitals has set up tents outside the hospital to deal with the volume they expect to see as cases surge.

"Our ICU capacity is at about 85%," he said. "It varies based on staffing."

While physical beds and supplies are an indicator of ICU capacity, the more important factor is having enough expert medical staff to provide around-the-clock care to COVID-19 patients.

"Most hospitals have exhausted their ICU staff," Baronoff said. "These are highly trained professionals who have been on the frontline. They've watched co-workers receive the virus. Many of them have had the virus and returned to work. And, we have to work with those resources that we have."

No new fatalities have been reported in Orange County, leaving the death toll at 1,633.

Another 2,613 cases were also announced, raising the cumulative case total to 93,126.

On Tuesday, Dr. Clayton Chau, the county's chief health officer and director of the HCA, told supervisors that the county is expecting about 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine from the first round that is being distributed nationwide.

The county could receive its doses as early as Dec. 15, and Chau said they would go to healthcare workers. Then, residents of skilled nursing facilities would be next on the list.

Vaccines for the general public are not expected until spring or early summer, Chau said.

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

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