The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced a new public health order on Monday that would require all hospitals in California to accept transfer patients from facilities with limited ICU capacity.
According to the order, the specific threshold for hospitals to begin letting the state know that transfers are imminent would be when less than 20% of staffed ICU beds are available for three or more days, when patients are overflowing into other areas of the hospital, and when outdoor tents are being used for three or more days. Once regions reach a threshold of 10% or under ICU beds for three days or more or individual hospitals reach 0% available ICU beds, then, for seven days, patients can transfer out to other hospitals in the region. If none are available in the region, then all general acute care hospitals must accept them as clinically appropriate.
The transfer order, a rollback to transfer rules earlier this year during the last major wave of COVID-19 cases, was created specifically to deal with the new Delta variant wave in the state that is infecting roughly 10,000 Californians a day. A rising number of ICU cases in particular led to CDPH Director Tomas Aragon to enact the new order.
“The Delta variant, which is currently the most common variant in California, is highly transmissible and may cause more severe illness,” said Dr. Aragon in a press release on Monday. “In fact, recent data suggests that viral load is roughly 1,000 times higher in people infected with the Delta variant than those infected with the original coronavirus strain, according to a recent study. California is currently experiencing the fastest increase in COVID-19 cases during the entire pandemic with 23.8 new cases per 100,000 people per day, with case rates increasing eleven-fold within two months. Hospitalizations have increased over 700% in the past two months and are projected to continue to increase.
“During last winter’s surge in COVID cases, hospital capacity was ensured because of the combined effects of the State’s general public health measures and critical efforts to coordinate hospital response on a local, regional, and statewide level. Now, the widespread adoption of vaccines, the State’s ongoing efforts to increase the rate of vaccination, and common-sense protections such as masking, when combined with renewed efforts at coordination among and promoting flexibility for hospitals, will ensure that all Californians continue to receive the care they need in our hospitals.”
While most health experts agree to the new transfers to help treat as many people as possible, many Californians negatively affected by the lockdowns worry that this could lead back to more returning lockdown orders in the near future.
“Things were normal this summer up until the end of July,” explained John Santos, a Los Angeles restaurant owner who represents the restaurants on his block to the Globe on Tuesday. “Then mask mandates came back, then vaccination mandates started to be put on. Right now we’re fighting against vaccination proof to get into restaurants. They already did in [San Francisco]. Now they are shuffling around patients again. To us, it’s a hint that more mandates are coming, especially after the election when it won’t have any more political consequences.”
The new transfer order is set to begin on Wednesday August 18th.