With local COVID-19 cases and deaths soaring and area hospitals at risk of being overwhelmed, local officials are urging residents to cancel their holiday plans.
The novel coronavirus is on the verge of becoming the third-leading cause of death this year in Santa Clara County, the officials said Dec. 23. Already, the county has recorded 632 COVID-related deaths. To prevent more, officials are advising that residents stay home for the holidays.
“Cancel any gathering that you were anticipating with anyone who does not live with you,” Dr. Ahmad Kamal, the county’s COVID-19 director of health care preparedness, said at a news conference. “Cancel any travel plans that you have. Even if it’s in a car, a few hundred miles away. Cancel it right now.”
The county’s situation with the pandemic is more dire than ever, said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s public health officer. At least 623 people are in the hospital with COVID-19, according to county data. Area hospitals are down to just 35 beds in intensive care units. Eight out of 10 hospitals have five or fewer ICU beds open, and three hospitals have fewer than 10 beds of any type remaining, Kamal said.
If the situation worsens anymore, patients — whether they’re suffering from COVID-19 or not — will pay the price, he said.
“We are talking about rationing what scarce resources our exhausted health system has left,” Kamal said. “We are talking about people dying who should not have died. And when hospitals are at that point — where they are rationing care, where they are having to turn away people who desperately need their services, it’s no longer just about COVID. It’s about everybody.”
County leaders urged people to avoid gatherings with other households. It can be difficult or impossible to know if other people have the disease, because carriers of the virus are often asymptomatic.
Indeed, Cody described the virus as a “silent” killer.
“One of the enormous, enormous challenges of COVID is that it’s silent. You can’t see it. Your loved one doesn’t look dangerous,” Cody said. “And you can have chains of silent spread that you don’t see that end in someone being hospitalized or end in someone dying.”
Contact Mauricio La Plante at [email protected] or follow @mslaplantenews on Twitter.