The Bay Area saw a single-day jump of COVID hospitalizations of 6.1% on Tuesday, and San Francisco is seeing more seriously ill COVID patients in hospitals at one time than at any other time during this pandemic.
The predicted surge in COVID cases hitting hospitals is happening just as local public health experts predicted it would, with case numbers rapidly rising and the severely ill beginning to occupy more and more available ICU beds across the region. In Santa Clara County, three hospitals reported having no more available ICU beds as of Wednesday — Regional Medical Center and O’Connor Hospital in San Jose, and St. Louise Hospital in Gilroy.
In San Francisco, the number of confirmed COVID patients in hospitals is higher than during previous surges in the spring and summer, as shown in the chart below. Darker blue shows patients in ICU beds (32), and yellow indicates patients transferred from other jurisdictions. There were 129 patients hospitalized in SF on Tuesday — 132 including suspected cases.
On Wednesday, SF Dept. of Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax gave another in a long series of stern and stark press briefings, warning San Francisco residents that if the curve doesn’t bend in the coming weeks, the number of hospitalizations — and likely the number of COVID deaths in the city — will skyrocket to unmanageable levels.
“To be blunt, we have one chance to turn this serious surge around and that chance is right now. But our window is narrowing and closing fast,” Colfax said. He called this “the worst surge to date,” and he added, “I want to stress the significant impact that this surge will have on you, your neighbors and friends and family and future generations if we do not bend the trajectory of this surge right now.”
As ICUs become overwhelmed, patterns in other parts of the country have shown that more deaths occur as doctors and nurses are stretched too thin to properly attend to every patient. And Colfax said that we could be looking at a ten-fold increase in deaths by late winter if the trends continue unabated — with upwards of 1,500 deaths, when we have seen 165 in the city to date since March. The worst-case scenario sees a ten-fold increase in hospitalizations, to around 1,410 patients simultaneously needing hospital care in SF.
This is “not our destiny yet,” Colfax said, but it is very possible.
San Francisco continues to have more ICU beds available than most other Bay Area counties, but that could change quickly. The hospital system in the city currently has 72% of its intensive-care beds filled, with 28%, or 81 total ICU beds available. Additionally, acute-care beds are 81% filled, and there were 305 available as of Tuesday.
Between Monday and Tuesday, the Bay Area saw a 6.1% jump in hospitalizations, with a net gain of 72 patients — out-pacing the state’s one-day uptick of 4.2%. The Bay Area now has 1,261 confirmed and suspected COVID patients in hospitals, higher than at any point since the pandemic began, and California currently has over 11,000 COVID patients in hospitals. Those numbers are expected to grow over the next week, if not longer, reflecting the surge in case numbers over the post-Thanksgiving period.