Los Angeles hospitals brace for care rationing

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Several hospitals in Los Angeles County are preparing for the possibility of restrategizing care delivery in the coming weeks amid growing COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles County reported 6,018 COVID-19 hospitalizations Dec. 20 — a 2.5 percent increase from the day prior — with 1,198 patients in ICUs, according to the state's data dashboard. Statewide, 17,750 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19, 3,710 of them in ICUs. 

The LA Times obtained a document recently circulated among physicians at the four county-run hospitals that outlines resource allocation in crisis situations. The guidelines call for physicians to save as many patients as possible versus trying everything to save a patient, meaning those less likely to survive will not receive the level of care they would have otherwise. L.A. County Health Services Director Christina Ghaly, MD, told the LA Times that the guidelines were not in place as of Friday night.

California activated its "mass fatality" program last week, which coordinates mutual aid across several government agencies when more deaths take place in a period of time than can be handled by local coroner or medical emergency personnel, NPR reports. 

Nearly all of the state is under stay-at-home orders, with residents prohibited from gathering with anyone outside their immediate household.

"I have yet to see any clear signals that things are slowing down, and I'm very concerned about the next two months," Timothy Brewer, MD, an epidemiologist with UCLA Health, told the LA Times. He said UCLA Health is scheduling several infectious disease specialists to be on call at any time, and the biggest issue is that hospitals may quickly run out of providers who can administer ICU-level care.

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