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Why ICU bed availability is the trigger for new lockdowns in California

ICU are meant for the treatment of the most critically ill and injured patients such as those suffering from heart attacks, strokes, burns and car crashes.

CALIFORNIA, USA — Intensive Care Unit beds are filling up at hospitals across the state of California.

This comes as many new cases of coronavirus are being linked to Thanksgiving gatherings and are reaching hospitals. Healthcare professionals are bracing for what could be the worst wave of coronavirus yet.

“It’s a little scary that you just don’t know when that boom is going to hit you, and I know a lot of the hospitals in the area are seeing increases in their numbers. They are seeing more ICU admissions,” said Tammi Bochecki, an ICU nurse at Kaiser Walnut Creek Medical Center.

She said many nurses are remaining optimistic, but many are also bracing for the worst. Greater attention was put on ICU’s in California this week, after Governor Gavin Newsom announced regional coronavirus lockdowns would be triggered by the availability of regional ICU beds. Once 85% of beds are taken, regional stay-at-home orders, which restrict business and travel, go into effect.

“It’s not something that can be easily replicated in a field hospital for example,” said Dr. Payal Kohli, ABC 10’s Medical Expert. “So, you can’t just put up an ICU just like you can in a regular hospital bed.”

RELATED: Greater Sacramento Region could move into new stay-at-home order within the week

ICU are meant for the treatment of the most critically ill and injured patients such as those suffering from heart attacks, strokes, burns and car crashes. However, seriously ill coronavirus patients are now taking up in these beds as well and overwhelming hospitals.

“That is the situation that we don’t want to happen, because that’s when people die,” Kohli said.

The San Joaquin Valley and Southern California regions were slated for lockdowns after more than 85% of their ICU beds were filled. Three Bay Area counties and Yolo County took pre-emptive action to protect their hospital systems, so they don’t have to make the choice of who to treat or not.

“You know, nobody ever wants to make that kind of decision, and we shouldn’t have to,” Bochecki said. “If we all help each other out and do our part, then maybe we can prevent that from happening.”

All 24 ICU beds at the only hospital in Yuba and Sutter Counties are full. Those counties are a part of the Greater Sacramento area which is using 82 percent of it’s ICU beds and inching dangerously close toward another lockdown.

RELATED: San Joaquin Valley region to move into stay-at-home order as ICU capacity drops below 15%

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