Santa Clara County receives nearly 100k COVID-19 vaccines, warns against New Year’s Eve parties
Santa Clara County hospitals are using emergency rooms to care for patients because intensive care units are overrun, health officials say. Stock photo.

    In urging people to stay home on New Year’s Eve, health officials shared a grim fact: There are only 28 available intensive care unit beds in all of Santa Clara County.

    And while the county has received nearly 100,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, infection rates continue to surge.

    The case rate is at 50 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, Dr. Ahmad Kamal, the county’s COVID-19 director of health care preparedness, announced Dec. 31.

    “To put that into perspective, the case rate to get out of the purple tier is a case rate of less than seven,” Kamal said. “The day before Halloween, our case rate in Santa Clara County was 4.5. We are now at 50.”

    As of Dec. 31, the county tallied 67,423 cumulative COVID-19 cases and 673 deaths.

    Kamal said the case rate is overwhelming hospitals. He urged people to stay home for New Year’s Eve.

    “What we are seeing now is not normal,” Kamal said. “It is an order of magnitude more than we saw just two months ago. We clearly are not out of the woods. We are in the thick of the woods.”

    Hospitals now have to use emergency rooms to care for patients because the ICUs are so overrun, said Dr. Marco Randazzo, an emergency department physician at O’Connor Hospital in San Jose and St. Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy.

    “Often the only time we can move a patient to the ICU is when a COVID patient has died,” Randazzo said.

    The surge also puts health care workers at higher risk of COVID-19 infection.

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    “We take pride in our dedication and obligation to help every patient that seeks care,” Randazzo said. “We do so with the understanding that our line of work can come at great personal risk for ourselves and even our families.”

    Despite the grim forecast for hospitals, County Testing Officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib said health care providers are on track to administer second doses to people who received vaccines in mid-December.

    The county has received more than 94,805 COVID-19 vaccines, plus additional doses to multi-county health care providers such as Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health.

    But Fenstersheib said it will take several months for the general public to access vaccines. The county first must vaccinate all the health care and essentials workers covered in California’s first phase.

    “Our priority is getting every single dose into somebody’s arm,” Fenstersheib said. “We do not want to sit on any vaccine, like we’ve heard in other communities. We want to be a community that gets the vaccine and gets it out as soon as we can.”

    Contact Mauricio La Plante at [email protected] or follow @mslaplantenews on Twitter.

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