- Some patients at one Los Angeles hospital are now being treated in the gift shop and chapel as COVID-19 cases surge and capacity is limited.
- COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County continue to break records and many intensive-care units have reached 0% capacity in the past several weeks.
- Public health experts attribute the rise mainly to people traveling and visiting friends and family during the holidays.
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A Los Angeles hospital is so overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases that it's now forced to treat some patients in the gift shop and chapel, CNN reported.
Dr. Elaine Batchlor, CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital said if cases continue to rise, they may have to result to wartime techniques designed to ration care.
"We may be forced to do something that, as health professionals, we all really just loathe having to even think about," Batchlor told CNN's Brooke Baldwin.
The hospital serves poor communities in South Los Angeles, The New York Times reported.
Dr. Oscar Casillas, the medical director for the hospital's emergency department, told The Times that while the emergency department could normally see about 30 people at a time, they've seen as much as 100 people a day amid the pandemic.
The hospital's waiting room is now a tent outside.
"Everything is backed up all the way to the street," Casillas said.
The Times said COVID-19 patients accounted for 66% of the community hospital's capacity.
Similar situations are playing out in hospitals across Los Angeles County, especially in South LA. Earlier this month, California activated its "mass fatality" program after deaths surged in the state. The program is meant to ensure local agencies aren't overburdened. Southern California, which spans more than 56,000 square miles and has a population of nearly 24 million people had a 0% ICU capacity at the time.
LA County officials are now working to test samples for the new and more transmissible strain of coronavirus, initially discovered in the UK.
However, many health experts including Barbara Ferrer, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director, have said the reason for the surge can be attributed to people ignoring social distancing and other protective measures during the holiday season.