‘A lot of viruses running around’: L.A. County hospital beds at lowest availability since pandemic began

The number of available Los Angeles County hospital beds has fallen to its lowest level of the pandemic, the result not only of the enduring threat of COVID-19 and the reemergence of flu and RSV, but also the needs of a populace that put off nonemergency care.

Based on data collected from 90 hospitals, there were 242 adult beds available countywide as of Monday, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told reporters Thursday. And, she added, “the average number of available beds so far in December is the lowest we have seen in the past four years.”

Comparing current conditions to the darkest days of the pandemic isn’t apples to apples, given that hospitals postponed many procedures and built up additional surge capacity during 2020 and into 2021. But with operations now more normalized, the situation illustrates the pressures exerted by the coronavirus and the wider respiratory virus season.

“It’s reasonable to speculate that part of the reason for the low number of available hospital beds is due to many patients seeking care that may have been delayed during earlier months of the pandemic and to the high circulating levels of respiratory viruses, resulting in a very high volume of patients,” she said.

Furthermore, healthcare workers aren’t immune to what’s happening in their communities — meaning widespread transmission of respiratory viruses may force sick calls and hurt staff availability.

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