ENCINITAS — For the first time since California’s reopening in June, surge tents have been erected and are in use to help handle the rising volume of COVID-19 patients at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas.
Before June 15, the day when the state relaxed most of its mandates regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Scripps Health hospitals in San Diego were home to 13 COVID patients. Scripps Encinitas had just a single patient with COVID-19.
As of this week, Scripps Health is now providing care to 136 COVID-19 patients with 36 of them in beds in Encinitas.
“We had to open up a second-floor medical-surgical unit to accommodate for the increased flow that we have,” Dr. Ghazala Sharieff, Scripps Health’s chief medical officer for acute care, clinical excellence and experience, told The Coast News.
The new unit is used specifically for COVID-positive patients and is separate from the intensive care unit where COVID patients are also treated.
In late July, Scripps Encinitas put up three surge tents outside of the emergency room to help with the influx of patients.
Staffing and bed space are once again tight in the Encinitas hospital, and a number of emergency room patients are currently being forced to wait for a bed to open to be admitted.
“Keep in mind we’re seeing regular volume as well. We’re seeing much higher summer volume than we normally see,” Sharieff said. “Now add on top of that this new surge we are seeing; it’s pretty significant.”
The numbers in Encinitas have not quite reached the levels of the past winter surge, but with no signs of slowing and vaccination numbers stagnating, Sharieff said she does not think they have yet reached their peak in the new surge.
The 136 COVID-19 patients admitted into Scripps hospitals is the most since late February.
Since the beginning of August, San Diego County has been reporting upwards of 1,000 new cases a day.
“And I don’t think we’re quite done yet because we don’t have the vaccination numbers that we should by now,” Sharieff said. “And this delta variant is very contagious, more than 50% more transmissible than the original strain was. So it’s a cycle we’re going to be in for a little while.”
With rising numbers comes new restrictions at Scripps Hospital. Scripps is returning to limiting visitors to two a day for patients and starting August 11 will be following a new state mandate given to them late last week.
Beginning Wednesday, individuals coming into Scripps Hospital will be asked to provide either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours.
This is on top of a state mandate requiring most healthcare workers to be vaccinated along with requiring weekly testing.
“There’s a lot of government load coming right now on top of the stress of seeing all these patients already,” Sharieff said.
With the delta variant of COVID-19, and others beginning to pop up around the globe, health experts such as Sharieff continue to urge everyone to wear masks when around others and to get any of the available COVID-19 vaccines.
“I will tell you that for people who have the long-term complications of COVID, one of the treatments is actually to get them vaccinated because it helps with the inflammatory response,” Sharieff said. “You’re probably going to get it if you’re out there not wearing a mask and not vaccinated. My plea would be is just look at one of our patients in the ICU on the heart and lung bypass laying there to convince you that the long-term complications will be there.”