Kevin Cody

COVID-19 hospitalizations at Providence Little Company rose with reopening of bars, restaurants

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After declining for two months, COVID-19 hospitalizations are on the increase at Providence Little Company of Mary in Torrance. Chart courtesy of PLCOM

by Kevin Cody

In mid-April, the number of COVID-19 patients at Providence Little Company of Mary peaked at 83. The following month, while the Shelter At Home order was in place, the patient census dropped to 19. By Last week, that number had doubled to 38.

The doubling of Providence Little Company’s COVID-19 patients coincided with the near doubling of COVID-19 cases statewide, from 130,000 on June 12 to 230,000 on July 1. On June 12, hoping the pandemic was under control, Governor Gavin Newsom allowed bars and restaurants to reopen. On July 1, he reclosed the bars and restricted restaurants to serving outside and to serving to go orders.

“In a virus with a 14 day incubation period, this could have been predicted, that the cases would increase within two weeks of reopening the bars,” Dr. Anita Sircar said last Wednesday, July 1, during a Zoom update on the pandemic, hosted by Providence Little Company of Mary. Sircar is an infectious disease specialist at the hospital.

“This is still very much a pandemic. Nothing is set in stone and it hasn’t been for the last three months,” she said.

One change, which she attributed to the bars’ reopening, is, “The majority of cases — 57 percent — we’ve been seeing lately are between the ages of 18 and 47. Previously, the majority were coming from congregate living facilities (senior homes and prisons).”

In Los Angeles County, 40 percent of recent COVID-19 cases have been people ages 18 to 40.

What hasn’t changed, Sircar said, is who dies. 

South Bay confirmed COVID-19 cases by city. Chart courtesy of PLCOM

“People over 65 still account for 75 percent of the deaths,” she said.

Sircar underscored the importance of wearing masks by noting that 35 percent of COVID-19 carriers show no symptoms and 40 percent of all transmission occur prior to the onset of symptoms

The pandemic has created a second health threat, Dr. Jo Vournas, Little Company Emergency Department Chair, said.

People needing medical attention for life threatening conditions such as heart disease and  diabetes are not seeking treatment because they are afraid of contracting COVID-19 at emergency departments.

To alleviate this fear, Providence Little Company CEO Gary Olney noted, there have been no patient to patient transmissions of COVID-19 at the Torrance hospital. He credited to stringent visitor restrictions and other precautions that isolate COVID-19 patients from the general hospital population.

Olney said Providence Little Company of Mary has been preparing for a surge since March, when California had just 1,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. The hospital now has 148 ventilators and maintains a two week supply of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).

Providence’s San Pedro hospital has been designated a “clean” hospital to protect its patients from COVID-19, and also to allow Proidence’s COVID-19 experts, resources, and testing to be concentrated at its Torrance Hospital, Olney said.

As of June 30, nearly 10,000 patients and employees had been tested for COVID-19. The number testing positive has been rising and is now at 11 percent, Olney said.

The hospital has discharged 375 COVID-19 patients since March.

COVID-19 Chronology. Courtesy of PLCOM

During the presentation, Sircar quoted from Dr. Anthony Fauci’s June 30 testimony before the Senate Health Committee. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases warned Senators  the number of new cases nationwide could jump from the current 40,000 a day to 100,000 a day.

“Clearly we are not in total control right now,” Fauci told the committee “It is going to be very disturbing, I will guarantee you that…. What was thought to be unimaginable turns out to be the reality we’re facing right now.”

Sircar said the U.S is funding three vaccine trials. But presently, there is no vaccine and no FDA approved medication for reducing symptoms.

(One of the vaccine trials is being led by Dr. Eric Daar, of the Lundquist Institute in Torrance. The vaccine was developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, in the United Kingdom, maker of the allergy nasal spray FluMisty. During the trial 20,000 people will receive the vaccine and 10,000 a placebo. Trial participants will be followed for a year.

“It’s conceivable we will have data by the end of this year, and certainly by the middle of next year,” Darr told Easy Reader in a recent interview.)

Sircar closed the conference by quoting World Health Organization Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said on June 29, “We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives. But the hard reality is this is not even close to being over. Although many countries have made some progress, globally the pandemic is actually speeding up.”

Sircar added, “Have hope. All pandemics end.” ER

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