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California hospital ICU’s see 20% jump in COVID-19 patients since last week, state data show

Sacramento Bee - 11/24/2022

The number of COVID-19 patients needing intensive care jumped 20% over the last week, public health officials announced in their latest update.

They have released a steady drumbeat of warnings to the public that cases of three winter viruses — COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV — are sharply rising. In some cities, hospital personnel have been setting up tents in parking lots to triage patients.

As of Wednesday, there were 346 patients in hospital intensive care units, accounting for roughly 13% of available beds. A greater percentage of COVID-19 tests came back positive, 7.6% this week compared with 6.3% in the report released Thursday.

Statewide, about 11 of every 100,000 state residents were reported to be ill with the respiratory illness that has killed millions worldwide over the last 2.5 years. Last week, nine out of every 100,000 had COVID.

The official state numbers do not take into account the many people who test themselves at home.

Stanford University’s analyses of wastewater in Sacramento and San Jose show that the COVID-19 pathogen has sharply risen over samples collected two weeks. In Davis, the samples showed COVID-19 levels at more than twice what they were two weeks ago, although the presence of the pathogen was on the decline.

Influenza A has been found in wastewater samples at more than twice the level of two weeks ago in Sacramento, Silicon Valley, Gilroy and Southeast San Francisco. RSV levels continued to rise in Sacramento and Palo Alto but held steady or were on the decline.

On average, about 12 people a day are dying of COVID-19 in California, public health officials said in Wednesday’s report. They say vaccination is the best means of preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death. Unvaccinated people are three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who have had at least the first two shots.

Flu vaccines are also available. There is no vaccine for RSV, a disease that can cause severe breathing problems for infants. Dr. Erica Pan, the California epidemiologist and a pediatrician, said parents should consult a physician if their children have signs of distress, including flared nostrils, grunting or wheezing, or full engaging the diaphragm to suck in air.

The challenge with infants in particular, doctors say, is that they have not yet developed the reflex that triggers mouth breathing when their noses are too congested to get air.

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