COVID-19: ICU beds more than 80% full in 5 Bay Area counties, new data shows

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) – Intensive care units across hospital systems in five Bay Area counties are “overwhelmed,” according to an ABC7 News I-Team analysis from mid-January.

“The numbers are high,” said Dr. Bela Matyas, Solano County’s Health Officer. “I’m concerned, because I do not believe we’re at the worst of it yet.”

The ABC7 News I-Team’s data analysis found Solano County is one of five counties – including Napa, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, and San Mateo – that all reported more than 80% of ICU beds on average were occupied in mid-January .

Napa had the highest rate, at an average of 88% occupied. The rest of the Bay Area fell below 80%.

Dr. Matyas says there’s been more COVID hospitalizations in Solano County during omicron than any other surge in the pandemic, but the ICU’s aren’t as packed with COVID patients as previous surges.

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“Only about one third of our ICU beds are being taken up by COVID,” said Matyas. “During our delta peak, it was more like half.”

Solano’s mid-month average ICU occupancy was 87%.

Marin County reported the lowest rate, with an average of 44% of ICU beds occupied as of mid-January.

“I’m confident that the peak of our surge is behind us,” said Marin County Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis. “But, it’s important to note that rates are still extremely high and the decline is rapid.”

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“Hospitals are certainly still under strain,” said Dr. Nicholas Moss, Alameda County’s Health Officer. “We are about where we were at the peak of the last winter surge. But it’s just been more challenging given how much virus is around.”

The infectious nature of the virus compounded with patients sick with other illnesses is hitting hospitals hard. As of mid-January, our analysis found about one third of the 61 hospitals across the Bay Area are on average at least 90% full.

“Over the course of the omicron surge, Stanford Health Care has activated surge teams to support increased patient needs in the ICU,” said a spokesperson for Stanford Healthcare in a statement. “We are currently operating all our licensed ICU and all other inpatient beds (Acuity Adaptable Beds), and we are fully staffed to do so. ICU volume ebbs and flows throughout the day. At this time we have ICU capacity to meet the community need , and have contingency plans to safely staff and care for our community should volumes increase. “

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Matyas said he’s seen patients show up for a hip replacement or come in for a heart attack, but they also happen to be COVID positive.

“People are in the hospital for things other than COVID,” said Matyas. “Every winter hospitals tend to become saturated and a lot of people tend to find themselves in the ICU.”

And while the influx of COVID and non-COVID patients is straining hospital systems, so is staffing shortages.

“It’s pretty bad,” said Dr. Jahan Fahimi, the Medical Director at UCSF’s Emergency Department. “Every single day there is a staffing crunch, a hole in the schedule and everyone shuffled to fix it.”

Fahimi added that overall staffing shortages are having implications on the hospital system’s ability to expand capacity when a surge hits.

“We have to be careful about how we provide care,” he said. “Thoughtful about elective surgeries and transfers into our hospital system.”

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