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COVID-19: The Month Ahead

Cedars-Sinai is Prepared to Treat Expected July Surge in Pandemic Patients

Emergency Department COVID-19 Update

As the nation heads into the Independence Day holiday — and the first full month of widescale easing of stay-at-home orders — Cedars-Sinai’s Chief Medical Officer is tracking the COVID-19 numbers. And he’s deeply worried about what he’s seeing.

“We are clearly headed in the wrong direction” said Richard V. Riggs, MD,  senior vice president of Medical Affairs and chief medical officer. “There is a feeling among public health experts that July could be the most severe month yet.”

Throughout the month of June, cases in Los Angeles County ticked steadily upward. On June 27, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported 2,542 new cases. With a total of 97,894 cases and 3,305 deaths since the pandemic first reached Los Angeles, the county is poised to hit the milestone of 100,000 COVID-19 cases by the beginning of the upcoming holiday weekend.

While the number of COVID-19 cases rise across the county, Cedars-Sinai is experiencing a gradual increase in hospitalized patients.

“The new cases appear to be the result of the public becoming less vigilant with safety and protection measures, beginning with the Memorial Day holiday. At Cedars-Sinai we're seeing an increased number of younger COVID-19 patients in the hospital, which reflects a trend across the region of an increase in positive COVID-19 tests among those who are under 40 years of age,” Riggs said. “As more businesses open and more people venture out to celebrate July 4, it is crucial to wash your hands frequently, wear a mask in public and maintain a 6-foot distance from people outside your household.”

Cedars-Sinai has planned for the projected upcoming increase by continuously monitoring and reassessing patient and community needs, while building a secure supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, gowns and face shields. The medical center is moving ahead with planned surgeries and procedures at this time to give patients the care they need.

“We are taking a data-driven approach,” Riggs said, pointing out that Cedars-Sinai has a long history of responding to infectious disease outbreaks like SARS and Ebola and is a federally designated Regional Ebola Treatment Center. “Because of careful planning and our experience with COVID-19 over the past four months, we have enough beds and PPE. We are prepared should a surge occur.”

From March 1 to June 15, Cedars-Sinai physicians, nurses, pharmacists, respiratory therapists and other healthcare professionals treated more than 500 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. While this figure is higher than at any other hospital in Southern California, it represents 5% of the total number of hospitalized patients Cedars-Sinai cared for at the medical center.

During that same time period, Cedars-Sinai treated more than 10,000 non-COVID-19 patients in the hospital — performing medically necessary surgeries and transplants, delivering babies and helping others manage conditions such as diabetes and cancer. These treatments occurred even as the medical center temporarily postponed many surgeries in anticipation of a surge that did not materialize.

Cedars-Sinai has taken numerous precautions to ensure safety at its hospitals, offices and outpatient sites, including temperature checks, requiring masks and enforcing physical distancing in waiting and clinical areas. The medical center continues to offer in-person appointments and telehealth options for patients to receive care. As a result, there is ample reason to feel reassured about seeking medical care if you need it, said Jeffrey A. Smith, MD, JD, MMMexecutive vice president of Hospital Operations and chief operating officer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

“If people who need healthcare keep putting it off, we could see a second public health emergency,” Smith said. "It is safe to get care at Cedars-Sinai, and we urge anyone who is sick not to delay seeing their doctor. "

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: Critical Care Nurses Become COVID-19 Sisters