MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION) Hospitals nationwide are considering the possibility of an influx of COVID-19 cases as the delta variant appears to spread. At the local level, hospitals and medical experts have plans in place to accommodate patients who may need to be hospitalized due to the virus.
The Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, for example, has seen a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations since the beginning of July. "In June, we hit an all-time low," said Medical Director of Infection Prevention Doctor Martha Blum. "And then come the first week of July, there was a noticeable increase in the percentages of positive tests and a noticeable difference in the number of people requiring hospitalization for symptoms of COVID." Currently, CHOMP has four COVID patients in-hospital, one of whom is in the ICU. Of the 257 individuals admitted for the virus since January 1st, 97% were unvaccinated.
"Regarding whether or not we have plans to open up COVID-specific units; yes, we still have plans in place and they're very flexible," said Doctor Blum. "We can flex up or flex down depending on how the situation changes in the coming weeks."
In addition, hospitals are equipped with sufficient PPE - much unlike last year. Doctor Blum explained that this was in part due to improvements in supply chains, but also due to the fact that facilities now have a better understanding of what is needed to tackle the virus. Blum explained, "We've already been pushed beyond our maximum capacity. So we do have some sense of, operationally, how we'd be able to manage surges of patients."
Despite efforts to prepare, medical experts say there is another danger on the horizon. A danger that, for the most part, was not an issue last year. "Last year, we largely escaped a flu season altogether," said Santa Cruz County's Doctor David Ghilarducci. "There is some concern that there is very little natural immunity from last year's flu season because there was very little flu."
Doctor Blum concurred, saying that last year's flu cases were at a record low. Both doctors said that the easiest way to keep oneself safe this year is to get both the COVID-19 and influenza vaccines. In addition, the experts confirmed that each shot is designed to pinpoint a certain virus, therefor the COVID shot will not protect against the flu, and vice versa.
For those who choose not to vaccinate, Doctor Blum says that being diligent about hand hygiene as well as staying home and getting tested for COVID-19 when feeling under the weather will be helpful in the coming months.