A Los Angeles County supervisor asked Gov. Gavin Newsom to request that Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy return to the city’s port to help hospitals battling COVID-19.

In a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, LA County’s fourth district Supervisor Janice Hahn said hospitals in Los Angeles are reaching a “breaking point” due to the amount of coronavirus cases and asked Newsom to request hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) come to the city’s port.

“We must continue to do everything within our power to fully support our health care providers as they battle this pandemic on the front line inside our hospitals. I also ask that you call on our federal partners to bring back the USNS Mercy with accompanying medical staff to the Port of Los Angeles. Emergency departments throughout LA County are overwhelmed and cannot take in all patients in need of urgent care,” Hahn wrote in the letter.

“The USNS Mercy can add more emergency care capacity for patients not suffering from COVID-19 related health complications,” she continued. “This will in turn alleviate the burden on hospitals, so they can focus on severely ill COVID-19 patients.”

The ship is currently docked in Portland.

That naval ship, the USNS Mercy, is currently dry-docked in Portland, undergoing heavy maintenance for at least the next several months. In fact, the Mercy sailed to Portland only weeks after it steamed away from Los Angeles in May, its nearly 1,000 hospital beds having gone largely unused during the initial pandemic wave, which pales in comparison to Southern California’s current crisis.

Fortunately, the hospital ship seems to have avoided an attack from AntiFa. That shows a rare display of good sense from the group, as attacking the USNS is a war crime.

The situation is reportedly so dire that ambulance crews have been advised to cut back on their use of oxygen and not bring any patients with virtually no chance of survival to the hospitals.

The measures were taken as circumstances are expected to become even worse in coming weeks, when patients sickened over the Christmas holiday will need treatment, leaving officials desperate for ways to increase capacity and triage care to focus on the sickest patients.

…Throughout the coronavirus-clobbered county, hospitals are moving to rapidly discharge ill patients who, in normal situations, would stay for continued observation. That has helped, but officials fear the flood of new patients — many with COVID-19 — is outpacing their ability to move less critical patients out.

In a sign of the strain the surge is putting on medical supplies needed for severely ill patients, the L.A. County Emergency Medical Services Agency issued a directive Monday that ambulance crews should conserve oxygen by administering it only to patients who have oxygen saturation levels below 90%. To reduce demand on hospitals, the agency last week issued memos directing ambulance staff not to transfer to hospitals most patients who have virtually no chance of survival.

A little farther north, a San Jose hospital worker donned an inflatable, air-powered costume to spread cheer in an emergency department on Christmas Day. Now the hospital is seeing a serious COVID-19 outbreak.

Hospital officials said 44 staff members tested positive between Dec. 27 and Jan. 3 in the emergency department at Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center. One emergency department worker who had a shift on Christmas died from COVID-19 complications.

“Any exposure, if it occurred, would have been completely innocent and quite accidental, as the individual had no COVID symptoms and only sought to lift the spirits of those around them during what is a very stressful time,” the medical center’s senior vice president, Irene Chavez, said in a statement to NPR. “If anything, this should serve as a very real reminder that the virus is widespread and often without symptoms, and we must all be vigilant.”

Hospital officials are investigating “whether the costume, which did have a fan, was a contributing factor” in the outbreak, Chavez told The New York Times.

Meanwhile, the governor is complaining the vaccine rollout has been too slow in this state.

Only about 35% of the COVID-19 vaccine doses that have arrived in California have been administered so far, a rate Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged Monday was “not good enough” as he pledged new funding and efforts aimed at ramping up the rollout.

California has received just under 1.3 million vaccine doses, but only a touch more than 454,000 people have actually received the shots, according to figures Newsom presented.


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