Category Archives: Hospitalizations

Surge: Some ambulances forced to wait hours as Bay Area ICU availability plunges

California, Bay Area hospitals strain amid crush of ICU patients

San Francisco Chronicle, By Jill Tucker, January 2, 2021
A COVID-19 patient who has had a stroke is prepared to be flown from one hospital to another on Dec. 22. Hospitals across California are straining to keep up with the surge.
A COVID-19 patient who has had a stroke is prepared to be flown from one hospital to another on Dec. 22. Hospitals across California are straining to keep up with the surge. Photo: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

The Bay Area’s intensive care unit availability dipped to 5.1% — its lowest figure yet — on the second day of the new year, even as the state braces for a further surge from Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.

The situation has gotten so difficult in Santa Clara County that some ambulances are sitting outside emergency rooms for up to seven hours waiting for a bed to open up for the patients they are carrying, county health officials said.

The delays — which mean the waiting ambulances cannot respond to other calls — have caused the San Jose Fire Department to transport people to emergency rooms at least a half-dozen times in the past week, the county officials said.

It’s a problem that’s already well known to the hard-hit Los Angeles area, where ambulances have waited for up to eight hours outside a hospital before patients could be moved inside, according to the Associated Press. In some cases, doctors started treating cases inside the vehicles.

Across the state, the outlook remained bleak, with a record 4,531 coronavirus patients in California intensive care units on Friday and the number of cases continuing to rise. The state recorded 53,341 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the second highest single-day figure, and another 386 deaths.

Available intensive care unit capacity in the Greater Sacramento region dropped sharply on Saturday, from 11.5% on Friday to 6.9%. The region, which includes the California side of Lake Tahoe, remains under a stay-home order, as do the Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. The latter two regions are drawing heavily on hospital surge capacity, since their regular ICUs have zero availability.

Experts fear it’s unlikely to get better anytime soon, because it’s still too early for hospitals to see the effects from a Christmas surge.

“Admission to the ICU is often 10 to 12 days after exposure,” said Dr. Robert Siegel, a Stanford virologist. “The number of deaths may continue to increase for another week or more.”

Siegel also expects spikes from Christmas gatherings “will merge with, and contribute to surges” from New Year’s gatherings.

The ambulance wait times in Santa Clara County could be an alarming sign of things to come. The county saw a record number of COVID-19 deaths Friday — 38.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who co-chairs the Health and Hospital Committee at the Board of Supervisors, said wait times for ambulances are not uncommon during busy times of the week or during holidays. But they typically last no more than an hour — not seven.

“Whatever the period of time is, it’s always a concern because by definition you have folks you want to have admitted as soon as possible, and you want to have an ambulance crew on the road as quickly as possible,” Simitian said.

The combination of New Year’s Eve and COVID may have added stress on the county’s emergency system, he said.

“When you put together New Year’s Eve compounded by the COVID crisis, there are going to be some outliers that are troubling,” he said. “My understanding is they were relatively few in number — but obviously that’s cold comfort if you’re the one waiting for an ambulance.”

James Williams, the Santa Clara County counsel, said the county’s hospital system has been “teetering on the edge,” since a post-Thanksgiving surge in virus hospitalizations. He fears that another, similar surge, would greatly exacerbate what is already a problem with wait times at hospitals.

“If we have another surge now, anything like what we had after Thanksgiving — it’s going to cause collapse,” Williams said. Unlike March, the county cannot just make room by transporting patients to other facilities in California or another state. Santa Clara County has contingency plans for how to provide “some level of support” to those who may need it during a potential surge. But, Williams warned, those contingency plans would not be “providing everyone with the level of medical care that we take for granted in the United States.”

The virus continued its indiscriminate path through the population, infecting the young, old, famous and infamous. Talk show host Larry King, 87, was hospitalized with the virus, according to reports Saturday, while Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on “Gilligan’s Island,” died Wednesday. And at least one person was hospitalized after a New York Republican club’s Christmas party featuring an unmasked conga line.

Between pandemic fatigue and the holidays, the current surge will probably continue well into January, with hospitals, funeral homes and nursing homes continuing to see the fallout. State prisons also continued to see a surge, with 6,510 reported cases in the last two weeks — a sizable portion of the 40,985 incarcerated people who have had COVID-19 at some point.

Across Southern California, where the virus has hit the hardest, mortuaries have had to turn away families due to lack of space for all the bodies — and with funeral homes filling up, there’s a backup of bodies at hospitals, Los Angeles County Director of Health and Human Services Dr. Christina Ghaly told the Associated Press. The county medical examiner is looking for alternatives to store the bodies, she said.

Although thousands of California front-line workers have received vaccines, there is no impact yet on case counts. But the idea of a vaccine may be having something of behavioral impact, for good or for bad, according to Stanford’s Siegel.

“Some people have increased their precautions with the realization that it would be tragic to be infected when their turn to be vaccinated may be just around the corner,” he said. “Other people have increased their risk behavior knowing they will soon be protected or knowing that other people around them are vaccinated.”

Chronicle staff writer Michael Williams contributed to this report.  Jill Tucker is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.

Over 300 NEW cases in Solano County over the weekend, more than 1,000 ACTIVE cases, positive test rate at 12.8%

It’s coming, why wait?  Solano County COVID numbers show need for shutdown now…

By Roger Straw, December 7, 2020

Unlike his colleagues in neighboring counties, Solano County Public Health Officer Dr. Bela Matyas prefers to wait for Governor Newsom’s regional stay-at-home order.  I have studied the numbers on a daily basis since April, and I think Matyas’ decision is incredibly unwise.  This post-Thanksgiving outbreak is different from our earlier surges.  We are in for a dramatic rise in COVID infections and hospitalizations now through mid-January.

So we need to take extra precautions, NOW.  Your best advice is to stay home as much as you can, and make plans now for a different kind of Christmas, Hanukah and New Year celebration.  Wear a mask if you must go out, order groceries for pick-up or delivery, don’t stay long anywhere but home, and keep your distance more carefully than ever before.

Here are the Monday numbers – take note!

[Source: Solano County Coronavirus Dashboard.  For a complete archive of County updates, see my Excel ARCHIVEALSO see important daily updates from another source, COVID19.CA.GOV: here on the BenIndy at Cases and Deaths AND Hospitalizations AND ICU Beds by REGION.]

Monday, December 7: 334 (!) new cases over the weekend, no new deaths.  Since Feb: 11,747 cases, more than 600 hospitalized, 85 deaths.Compare previous report, Friday, Dec. 4:Summary

  • Solano County reported 334 (!) new cases over the weekend.  As of today, Solano has seen an average of 142 new cases per day over the last 14 days! (source: Total of 11,747 cases since the outbreak started.
  • Deaths – no new deaths reported today, total of 85 Solano deaths since the pandemic began.
  • Active cases – Solano reported 116 fewer active cases today.  New total of 1,080 active cases Active cases have increased alarmingly lately – COMPARE: average number of Active Cases during October was 284 – today we are at 1,080!  Is the County equipped to contact trace so many infected persons?  Who knows?  To my knowledge, Solano has offered no reports on contact tracing.
  • Hospitalizations – (For best info, see BenIndy page, COVID-19 Hospitalizations Daily Update for Solano County.)  CAUTION ON COUNTY REPORTING: According to Solano Health Officer Dr. Bela Matyas, the County occasionally updates Age Group hospitalizations retroactively, adding substantial numbers.  Thus, many hospitalizations are never reported as CURRENTLY hospitalized.  Today, Solano County reported the number of CURRENTLY hospitalized persons increased by 2, total of 68, but TOTAL hospitalized since the outbreak began supposedly remained unchanged todaya total of 603 of all ages hospitalized since the outbreak began.  The County will likely update this figure at a later date.  [For my manual calculation of total hospitalizations, see age group stats below.]
  • ICU Beds(For detailed info see BenIndy page, COVID-19 Hospitalizations Daily Update for Solano County, and for REGIONAL data see COVID-19 ICU Bed Availability by REGION.)  The County reported a decrease in ICU beds available today, down from 35% to 33%.
  • Testing – The County reports today that 4,680 residents were tested over the weekend, a total of 135,052 unduplicated residents tested for COVID-19 since the outbreak began.  30.1% of Solano County’s 447,643 residents (2019) have been tested.

Positive Test Rate – Extremely high at 12.8%

Solano County reported another high 7-day average positive test rate today of 12.8%, down from Friday’s 16.8%, but far and away over the State’s purple tier threshold of 8%Average percent positive test rates are among the best metrics for measuring community spread of the virus.  The much lower and more stable California 7-day average test rate has also been on the rise lately, and rose substantially today from Friday’s 8.5% to 10.5%(Note that Solano County displays past weeks and months in a 7-day test positivity line graph which also shows daily results.  However, the chart does not display an accurate number of cases for the most recent days, as there is a lag time in receiving test results.  The 7-day curve therefore also lags behind due to unknown recent test results.) 

By Age Group
  • Youth 17 and under – 29 (!) new cases today, total of 1,328 cases, representing 11.3% of the 11,747 total cases.  No new hospitalizations reported today among this age group.  Thankfully, no deaths have ever been reported in Solano County in this age groupBut cases among Solano youth rose steadily over the summer, from 5.6% of total cases on June 8 to 11% on August 31 and has plateaued at over 11% since September 30.  Youth are 22% of Solano’s general population, so this 11.x% may seem low.  The significance is this: youth are SERIOUSLY NOT IMMUNE (!) – in fact at least 14 of our youth have been hospitalized since the outbreak began.
  • Persons 18-49 years of age – 208 (!) new cases today, total of 6,891 cases. This age group is 41% of the population in Solano, but represents just under 60% of the total cases, by far the highest percentage of all age groups.  The County reported no new hospitalizations among persons in this age group today.  A total of 194 have been hospitalized since the outbreak began.  No new deaths in this young group today, total of 6 deaths.  Some in this group are surely at high risk, as many are providing essential services among us, and some may be ignoring public health orders.  I expect this group is a major factor in the spread of the virus.
  • Persons 50-64 years of age – 72 (!) new cases today, total of 2,299 cases.  This age group represents nearly 20% of the 11,747 total cases.  The County reported no new hospitalizations among persons in this age group today.  A total of 162 have been hospitalized since the outbreak began.  No new deaths in this age group today, a total of 16 deaths.
  • Persons 65 years or older – 24 new cases today, total of 1,222, representing 10.4% of Solano’s 11,747 total cases.  The County reported no new hospitalizations among persons in this age group today.  A total of 233 have been hospitalized since the outbreak began.  No new deaths in this age group today, total of 63 of our elders who died of COVID, accounting for 74% of Solano’s 85 total deaths.
City Data
  • Benicia added 12 (!) new cases today, total of 312 cases since the outbreak began. 
  • Dixon added 26 (!) new cases today, total of 840 cases.
  • Fairfield added 72 new cases today, total of 3,502 cases.
  • Rio Vista remained steady today, total of 97 cases.
  • Suisun City added 29 (!) new cases today, total of 818 cases.
  • Vacaville added 98 (!) new cases today, total of 2,461 cases.
  • Vallejo added 96 (!) new cases today, total of 3,676 cases.
  • Unincorporated areas added 1 new case today, total of 41 cases.
Race / Ethnicity

The County report on race / ethnicity includes case numbers, hospitalizations, deaths and Solano population statistics.  This information is discouragingly similar to national reports that indicate significantly worse outcomes among black and brown Americans.  Note that all of this data surely undercounts Latinx Americans, as there is a large group of “Multirace / Others” which likely is composed mostly of Latinx members of our communities.

  • Asian Americans are 14% of Solano’s population, and account for 10% of cases, 12% of hospitalizations, and 18% of deaths.
  • Black Americans are 14% of Solano’s population, and account for 12% of cases, but 16% of hospitalizations, and 23% of deaths.
  • Latinx Americans are 26% of Solano’s population, but account for 22% of cases, 26% of hospitalizations, and 18% of deaths.
  • White Americans are 39% of the population in Solano County, but only account for 26% of cases, 28% of hospitalizations and 32% of deaths.

The County’s Coronavirus Dashboard is full of much more information, too extensive to cover here on a daily basis.  The Benicia Independent will continue to summarize daily and highlight significant portions.  For more, check out the Dashboard at

DAILY UPDATE link for California ICU bed availability BY REGION

By Roger Straw, December 5, 2020, updated Dec 7, 2020

The State of California is now posting a readily available DAILY UPDATE on California’s REGIONAL ICU hospital bed availability.  This is super important as a 15% level is the trigger for the state’s Dec. 3 Stay At Home Order.  Save this link for future use: will need to scroll down to “Regional Stay Home Order”).

Below is the most current data from

EARLIER VERSION FOR COMPARISON:  Below you will find the map and the listing from December 5:

SAHO ICU bed % available as of December 5, 2020 for the 5 regions:

Northern California 24.1%
Bay Area 21.7%
Greater Sacramento 21.4%
San Joaquin Valley 8.6%
Southern California 12.5%


SAHO is short for Stay At Home Order.

I will try to find out and post here the usual time of day when the numbers are updated.  Stay tuned.


Solano County hospitalizations on Sunday 2020-12-06: 69 hospitalized, 21 in ICU, more suspected

By Roger Straw, December 7, 2020

11 ICU beds remain available

The State of California’s  COVID19.CA.GOV website is an incredibly rich resource for daily updates with latest data on hospitalizations (and much more) – both for the State and by individual Counties.

Each day the State updates the numbers along with “Change from Prior Day” and “14-Day Rolling Average.”  Below is a summary, followed by a screenshot of today’s results.  The CURRENT data on the CA.GOV Hospitalizations page provides much more by simply hovering over various components.

Today CA.GOV showed Solano County COVID19 hospitalizations as of yesterday, Sunday November 6:

  • 69 Positive Patients (3 fewer than previous day, 14 day rolling average of 66)
  • 10 additional Suspected Patients (3 fewer than previous day, 14 day rolling average of 12)
  • 21 ICU Positive Patients (1 fewer than previous day, 14 day rolling average of 18)
  • 0 additional ICU Suspected Patients (same as previous day, 14 day rolling average of 2)
  • 11 ICU Available Beds (1 fewer than previous day)
As of yesterday, Saturday, December 5, 2020Previous day’s report – data as of Saturday, December 5, 2020