Hospital staffing remains a concern as COVID-19 cases continue to increase, Kern’s health officials say

July 2, 2020 /

Health officials said Thursday hospital staffing — particularly nurses — remains a concern as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Kern.

The Kern County Public Health Department confirmed Thursday 171 new COVID-19 cases — the most ever confirmed in Kern County in one day. The department also confirmed there are 795 hospital and 65 ICU beds available in Kern’s 10 hospitals.

However, Dr. Kris Lyon, Kern County’s Health Officer, said hospitals staffing is a bigger concern.

“One factor that plays into availability of care is staffing,” Lyon said. “They are critical to having those beds available. If we have all these beds but don’t have staff, it limits out ability to care for patients.”

Lyon said staffing is especially a challenge in Kern.

Matt Constantine, the director of Kern Public Health, said local hospitals have indicated staffing is a limiting factor that could present challenges as Kern’s hospitalization rates continue to increase.

As of Thursday, there were 102 people recovering in the hospitals, which is 32 more people from last Thursday’s update.

“On a county level, we are exploring any potential ability to help our local hospitals on providing adequate staffing,” said Constantine.

Lyon said if things were to get worse, the county would consider calling upon state and federal resources to help with staffing.

“We are not at that point, yet,” Lyon said.

Last month, a COVID-19 state model was released by the state. It showed Kern County was predicted to exceed it’s normal ICU capacity by the end of July. Kern was predicted to exceed it’s ICU capacity of 78 beds by July 28, according to the model. The model also predicted Kern would see a peak in hospitalizations in February 2021 if residents do not take precautions.

RELATED CONTENT: State model predicts Kern to exceed ICU capacity late next month

“We are worried about what the future holds,” Constantine said.

Health officials said the public can play a part.

Lyon said by wearing face coverings, social distancing and washing your hands can play a part in local hospitals’ abilities to care for patients.

“Try not to put yourself in a position to get infected with the Coronavirus,” Lyon said. “We do need to be physically distancing if we are going to decrease the spread of Coronavirus.”

Health officials also confirmed one more COVID-19 related death Thursday, bringing the total number of deaths to 77 — 30 of which are from skilled nursing facilities.

There are now a total of 4,949 cases. Of these cases, 1,371 cases remain active, while 3,493 people have recovered.

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Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez is the program associate for South Kern Sol. She can be reached at elizabeth@southkernsol.org.