As COVID-19 continues its relentless march through California, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday recommended that Imperial County, the location of one of the state’s most intense flare-ups, reinstate its stay-at-home order.
Over the weekend, the Governor also mandated that seven counties, including Los Angeles, shut down their bars and nightclubs, and recommended that eight additional counties do the same.
One of the primary drivers of Gov. Newsom’s actions is data showing hospitalization rates rising significantly in these counties. More non-pharmaceutical interventions can help alleviate the pressure on hospitals, so rapid response to changing conditions is key.
It’s reasonable to expect that there will be something of a COVID-19 see-saw effect for some time. As people see notable declines in the number of cases, they will become more comfortable going out, and less consistent about wearing face coverings. That will trigger another spike, which will necessitate more interventions. That will be followed by another decline. And so on.
When the peaks do hit, hospitals have to be able to receive and care for additional COVID-19 patients, but it’s also critical that we are ready for patients needing other medically necessary care. We must avoid a nearly complete shutdown of health care services, the scenario that materialized nearly four months ago when California went into a state of emergency. A broad shutdown would mean Californians aren’t getting the care they need, like vital cancer screenings, life-saving vaccinations, chronic disease treatment, and more.
To avoid that, and to make sure hospitals are ready, we’re working closely with state health department leadership on a plan that will provide greater ability for hospitals to care for all patients when responding to a COVID-19 resurgence. A central focus is on the ability for hospitals to adjust their capacity based in real-time, instead of reserving space in advance, and doing so in collaboration with their county or counties via a regional approach. The negotiations are going on as we speak, and we hope to finalize the plan in the coming weeks.
In addition, in a huge win on Friday after much work with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), they extended the waiver of hospital licensing requirements that had been set to expire today. The waiver has been extended through March 1, 2021. CDPH accepted all of our requests for extension, with the exception of the way in which the provisions of one will be handled — nurse-staffing ratios.
CDPH has modified the waiver of nurse-staffing ratios rather than simply extend the current version. Hospitals will now need to apply for a waiver of nurse-staffing ratios based on delineated COVID-19 related conditions rather than receive the waiver by default. We continue to work with CDPH to address concerns with this change.
As we head into the July 4 holiday weekend, three-and-a-half months after COVID-19 began to change California forever, we know that the fight against COVID-19 will take all of us down a long road, and we know that our work is far from complete in urging state leaders to create the optimal environment for hospitals to do what they do best: care for those in need.