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12:50 PM

COVID-19 Crisis: News Round-Up

As Southern California COVID-19 Cases Surged, Cedars-Sinai was in the News

For the past month, as COVID-19 cases in Southern California multiplied exponentially, Cedars-Sinai frontline caregivers and their patients have been prominent in the news. 

“As our state, county and medical center continue to be inundated with critically ill patients, Cedars-Sinai remains committed to transparency,” said Richard V. Riggs, MD, Cedars-Sinai's chief medical officer. “Providing the news media with real-time updates and pertinent information is critical to our efforts to keep our community safe.”

At the height of the surge, KCAL-9 featured Nicole Van Groningen, MD, a frontline healthcare physician, who urged Southern Californians to avoid social gatherings.

“We know the reason this disease has spread the way that it has is because people without any symptoms can have the disease and can spread it to other people,” Van Groningen told KCAL. “The kindest thing you can do for yourself and for your community and everyone here at the hospital – especially all of our sick patients – is to please stay home.”

Critical care nurse Charlotte Guevarra, RN, echoed that message, telling Today Online, “we are admitting patients faster than we are discharging them…In this battle, we are so outnumbered.”

In an interview that was broadcast on local newcasts nationwide, Isabel Pedraza, MD, director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit, said it it's hard to listen to people who call COVID-19 a hoax.

"People saying we are infringing on their constitutional rights and yeah, it’s incredibly demoralizing," Pedraza said. "I think that there isn’t anyone who does this that doesn’t feel demoralized by it. Our lives don’t matter, the patient’s lives don’t matter. It seems like this suffering is meaningless to some people, that’s what it feels like it – it doesn’t matter until it happens to them.”

Another frontline nurse, Joseph Richard, spoke to KNBC-4 about spending Christmas in the ICU.

“It’s not the norm, there are a lot of patients in the hospital,” said Richard. “It’s a new kind of nursing care we’re having to provide.”

One challenge has been treating patients who are alone in the hospital, Richard said.

“It’s really sad having family members not be able to be present at the bedside,” said Richards. “So, we try to do things like Facetime with them and talk to the patients.”

And for those unable to communicate, Richards say he and his colleagues continue to do all they can to bring comfort.

“You still try to treat them with dignity and respect and involve the family as much as you can.”

Univision aired an interview with hospitalized patient Walter E. Gomez Saldana, who shared his COVID-19 story so people would know the pandemic "is no joke."

“This is serious,” said Gomez Saldana. “Please stay home and keep your distance. I know we all miss our family and friends, but call them. Just stay home.”

CNN aired an extensive interview with Jeffrey Smith, MD, JD, MMM, chief operating officer of Cedars-Sinai.

“We are all working very hard to remain available to our patients, both those with COVID and those with other urgent medical conditions,” Smith said. “We have opened additional clinical areas by covering recovery rooms into ICU beds to almost double our ICU capacity.”

Cedars-Sinai has brought on additional staff from around the country to help out and staff members are taking on additional hours and shifts, Smith said.

“We really want to be able to provide the best care possible in this very challenging time,” Smith said.