Thousands of health care workers sickened by coronavirus, worsening crisis in L.A. County hospitals

The astronomical coronavirus surge in Los Angeles has infected thousands of healthcare workers in recent weeks and exacerbated the strain on hospitals struggling to care for critically ill patients.

More than 2,200 people who work at hospitals in L.A. County tested positive for the virus in December alone, constituting roughly a third of all hospital infections reported during the pandemic. Whereas in previous months nursing homes and outpatient clinics suffered the most illnesses, besieged hospitals and their beleaguered workers have been hit hardest by the winter surge.

Dr. Anish Mahajan, chief medical officer of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, said that adequately staffing his hospital — where the ICU is stretched to 150{50531db320f8e8a316d79d6a285e47c71b6e4f6739df32858cb86474d7e720e9} of its normal capacity — is a constant challenge, with staffers out because they are ill with COVID-19 or quarantining due to exposure. Hospitals across California have reported similar trends.

“Somebody who wears their PPE perfectly and deals with high-risk patients doesn’t get sick at work … when they get home, their teenager might give them COVID. We see that a lot,” Mahajan said. “We end up short-staffed in everything, from nurses to doctors to even the custodial staff that helps us turn over the rooms. And all of that makes it even more difficult to take an onslaught of more and more patients.”

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