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Mobile Field Hospitals Come To OC For Surge Of COVID-19 Patients

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) -- Orange County rolled out mobile field hospitals Tuesday as the area continued to set new records for coronavirus diagnoses and hospitalizations.

Mobile Field Hospitals Come To OC For Surge Of COVID-19 Patients
Blue tents have been set up in front of UC Irvine Medical Center in Irvine, Calif., to handle patient overflow. Dec. 16, 2020. (CBSLA)

"From the National Guard, the federal government, traveling nurses, this is where we are going to get our help and where we can meet this demand," said Dr. James Keany, an ER physician with Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo.

The county logged 2,173 new COVID-19 infections, raising the cumulative case total to 107,937.

Hospitalizations jumped from 1,287 Monday to 1,371 Tuesday, including 296 ICU patients, up from 288 the previous day. Both are new records: a daily occurrence since last week.

To address the need, mobile field hospitals are being set up and will be housed in large trailers and include canvas tents with hard flooring and temperature-controlled units that feature running water, toilets, showers and generators as well as air purifiers.

Fountain Valley Regional Hospital will get 50 more beds, St. Jude's in Fullerton will receive 25 beds and UC Irvine will get 50 beds. The mobile units are equipped with running water, lighting and air purifiers.

"As far as space and stuff, we're good there, we can really expand," said Dr. James Keany, an ER doctor at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo. "It may look on paper like we've used all our ICU beds, but we can create new stuff and new spaces. What we can't create are new ICU nurses."

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday the state just recruited 500 new healthcare workers to help with the crisis, including 300 private nurses, 49 National Guard members, and 21 retired doctors and nurses.

Most of the fatalities reported since Friday were in the 75-and-older category, but at least one was 25 to 34 years old.

All of the county's metrics now fall within the state's most restrictive purple tier of the four-tier coronavirus monitoring system.

The county's ICU bed availability increased from 9.3 percent Monday to 10.4 percent Tuesday in the unadjusted category and increased from zero to 1.4 percent in the "adjusted" metric the state created to reflect the difference in beds available for COVID-19 patients and non-coronavirus patients.

The 11-county Southern California region's percentage of available ICU beds stands at 1.7 percent.

As has been the case for months, dozens of residents appealed to the board of supervisors on Tuesday to ignore the state's stay-at-home order.

Orange County counsel Leon Page explained that Newsom's executive order is the final say on the stay-at-home order and county cannot do anything to change it.

Dr. Clayton Chau, the county's chief health officer and director of the Health Care Agency, made an emotional appeal to residents to adhere to physical distancing and face-covering mandates to help curb the spread of coronavirus.

"The one thing we know is people should stay at home when sick, do not mix households and wear a mask, and do all the cleaning measures like washing your hands.," Chau said. "That's the only thing that works."

Orange County is awaiting its first shipment of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine, expected to arrive Wednesday. About 25,000 doses are expected, according to Orange County CEO Frank Kim.

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

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