(KRON) – The flu, COVID, and RSV infections among children are outpacing the State of California’s availability of pediatric hospital beds.
California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly says hospitals typically have 40% of pediatric ICU beds open. Right now that number is about 20% statewide.
“We’ve got all three of these viruses that are really playing havoc with the number of beds that we have available, and that’s very scary,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, a UC Berkeley infectious disease expert.
Swartzberg is among the many Bay Area doctors anticipating a long winter season.
“For many of us, especially for us who are pediatricians, we know that winter seasons are like this,” said Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a Stanford medicine infectious disease specialist.
Maldonado says she is seeing more virus-related cases.
“This year has been at least four-to-five times worse in terms of numbers than we’ve ever seen before, so it’s really a lot of kids especially and family members,” Maldonado said.
“Colder weather, people are indoors and the holidays where people are traveling, getting together with lots of other people. This is perfect for the virus to spread from person to person,” Swartzberg said.
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The chief medical officer at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health says the hospital is deferring and rescheduling some elective clinical surgeries amid the respiratory illness surge to ensure they have the capacity to care for the most at-risk young patients. A spokesperson at Kaiser Permanente says a small number of elective procedures have been rescheduled, and they are doing their best to avoid postponing procedures.
At John Muir Health, officials there say adult ICUs are close to capacity and the pediatric intensive care unit is full, but no elective surgeries have been canceled at this time. Doctors are worried about a surge in flu and COVID cases over the Christmas and New Years holidays.
“It’s not a safe time to be casually doing things without any regard to prevent getting infected with influenza and COVID,” Swartzberg said.
And just like what we were advised to do during the pandemic, health experts are reminding people to wash their hands, stay on top of vaccinations and consider wearing a mask, especially in crowded indoor spaces.