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SLO County officials growing concerned with shrinking number of available hospital/ICU beds

Hospital exterior
San Luis Obispo County hospitals seeing increased number of COVID-19 patients. (Dave Alley/KEYT)

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- As the number of COVID-19 cases rises dramatically each day in San Luis Obispo County, so too does the number of patients that are in the hospital.

According to the the county's official COVID-19 information website ReadySLO.org, there are currently 49 people hospitalized that are infected with the virus.

The number of patients that are listed in intensive care is 13.

"In the month of December and ongoing, we're seeing absolutely the highest numbers of people with COVID that are in hospital beds and that are in intensive care units beds," said Dr. Penny Borenstein, San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officer. "This has us concerned. We hope that it won't go any higher, but it might as we're continuing large numbers of outbreaks of cases in our county."

The county lists 369 total beds in area hospitals, plus a total of 53 ICU beds.

The state dashboard for hospital numbers currently lists just 17 available ICU beds, a decrease of five from the day before.

While San Luis Obispo County has not reached zero percent capacity like other counties, such as Los Angeles, it's capacity is shrinking.

"We are not in trouble at this point," said Borenstein. "We continue to have capacity, both in our hospital beds and our intensive care beds, but the trajectory that we've seen, the rapid rise of increase over the past month has us concerned."

Borenstein added Public Health is in daily communication with local health care providers to ensure that they have the capacity that they need to take care of people.

"We are talking with our hospital partners every single day to understand what they're feeling," said Borenstein.

The two major hospital operators in the county, Tenet Health Central Coast and Dignity Health Central Coast both provided statements Tuesday regarding current capacity concerns.

The Tenet Health Central Coast statement said:

“Tenet Health Central Coast hospitals, Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center and Twin Cities Community Hospital, have the capacity to treat any patients presenting to our hospitals. 

Given the recent increase in hospitalizations in California and around the world, we are closely monitoring the census in our hospitals and making rapid adjustments as needed. 

We have been preparing and continue to prepare for the surge of critical patients in our community. 

We commend our team of trained professionals who are working diligently to ensure our preparedness as we continue caring for our community. 

As always, we urge our community to proactively protect themselves and others by wearing a mask in public, using good hand hygiene and practicing social distancing.”

The Dignity Health Central Coast statement said:

"Over the past few weeks, we have seen an increase in our ICU patient volume at Arroyo Grande Community Hospital and French Hospital Medical Center. We have enacted our surge plans and are utilizing additional bed space that was prepared for such situations.

We are working collaboratively among our three Dignity Health Central Coast hospitals (including Marian Regional Medical Center) to provide patient care to both COVID patients and the community.

This surge is greater than what we saw in August and while we have begun to initiate our surge plans, we are still prepared to care for the community.

We expect to see yet another increase in COVID-19 positive patients from the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. We remain prepared to care for our patients, however, with community prevalence of COVID-19 continuing to increase, our staffing levels have been affected. We are encouraging individuals to continue to do their part to mitigate the spread."

On Tuesday, San Luis Obispo County reported 611 new cases, along with two additional deaths.

Since the pandemic started nearly 10 months ago, there has been 11,895 confirmed cases.

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California / Coronavirus / Safe at Home / Safety / San Luis Obispo County
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Dave Alley

Dave Alley is a reporter and anchor at NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Dave, click here.

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