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63% of ICU patients in SJ County hospitals stricken with COVID
covid 19 graphic

One month ago, San Joaquin County’s ICU capacity was at 104 percent with 17 percent of those beds belonging to people with the COVID-19 virus.

While as of Monday afternoon the 117 percent ICU capacity might not have seemed like too tremendous a jump amidst a massive spike in infections, the number of people requiring intensive hospitalization has skyrocketed.

Currently 63 percent of all patients receiving ICU care have COVID-19 – the highest percentage since the start of the pandemic. It is a bleak signal for what experts believe could be a treacherous winter just as cold and flu season begins to pick up steam.

While ICU care is the most serious for those that are infected with the virus, the percentage of people hospitalized throughout the county with the virus has also spiked. It has more than tripled in the last month from 12 percent on Nov. 16 to 38 percent as of Monday afternoon.

Over the course of the last week the county has seen a 31 percent spike in the number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 – an improvement over the 43 percent spike seen the previous week week.

The hospitalization rate, experts say, is typically a much more reliable indicator to gauge the impacts of the virus and the effort to contain it – especially after widespread free testing arrived in San Joaquin County and those without symptoms started getting tested.

And pleas from local and state public health experts doing everything they can to ensure that space is available in local hospitals may not carry the same weight that it did at the start of the pandemic.

Earlier this month in Lodi – where the summer surge impacted medical services so greatly that the city’s lone hospital qualified for and received a military medical deployment to provide much-needed staffing – a restaurant owner made headlines when he announced that he would convert his restaurant into a “members only” club and charge patrons a single dollar so that he could continue serving meals indoors.

Last week dozens of local business owners and their supporters in Stockton gathered on the steps of Stockton City Hall to protest the latest round of closures that targeted the wider San Joaquin Valley region – which instituted a modified stay-at-home order that halted indoor and outdoor dining and most personal health service businesses.

Over the weekend that extensive San Joaquin Valley region – which stretches from Lodi all the way down to the Grapevine – became national news when it was announced that every single ICU bed in the expansive region was spoken for.

All 14 licensed ICU beds in Manteca – 8 of which are at Doctors Hospital of Manteca and 6 of which are at the Manteca Kaiser facility – are currently occupied. At Doctor’s Hospital, 75 percent of those in the ICU have COVID-19, and 66 percent of the patients in the ICU at Manteca’s Kaiser facility have the virus as well.

While San Joaquin County hospitals saw a tremendous decline in the number of hospitalizations from the previous high in late July through Halloween, it took half as much time to get back up to the previous high – which is still climbing.

As of Monday, 299 people – a record since the start of the pandemic – were hospitalized in San Joaquin County with COVID-19 while an additional 73 COVID-positive patients are receiving ICU-level care.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.