Before the new year, LA County expects to break 10,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19, despite new action such as travel restrictions. The death toll has accelerated over 600 percent since November, with Christmas travel and more infectious new strains. Last week, the week before Christmas, 1 person in LA County died of COVID-19 every fifteen minutes or less.

Over Christmas weekend, 96 percent of LA County hospitals were turning away emergency patients due to lack of space. Not only space for COVID-19 patients, but for everyone. 

“We’re getting to a crisis in Los Angeles County where the hospitals are full. So one of the most important things to understand is if you get it, it’s going to be challenging. There’s kind of no room at the inn,” said Dr. Marianne Gausche-Hill with the L.A. County Emergency Medical Services Agency.

As hospitals brace for another surge after everyone’s ill-advised Christmas gatherings, plans are being made to put patient beds in unlikely places such as gift shops, parking structures. “Crises care” plans are also being examined, which are more severe decisions. They include deciding how to ration treatment when staff, medicine, and supplies are all in short supply. To put it plainly, LA County is very nearly to the point where they will have to deny care to some in order to save others, simply because of too much demand on too few resources. That decision would only be made based on likelihood of survival, according to medical ethics.

This situation is entirely what “flatten the curve” was always about. We aren’t used to thinking of hospitals as a limited resources, but that is a mental shift we absolutely have to make. The vaccine is here, but rollout will be slow and haphazard, going by what has happened so far.

Editorial credit: Ringo Chiu /