San Diego and north county hospitals still have extremely high COVID19 patient numbers, and Scripps Memorial – La Jolla hospital alone in mid-January 2021 has continuously had a census of over 40 patients on a ventilator and over 100 inpatients battling COVID19 pneumonia.
In providing care for patients who test positive, we have used negative pressure or effectively sealed rooms to prevent hospital spread of the virus. When entering a room with COVID positive patient, health care workers use disposable gowns, N95 respirators, and a full-face shield to minimize any risk of transmission. When we leave the hospital and come home, we are extremely careful to mask up to prevent transmission back to the community, with even further self-imposed restriction and isolation if any known exposure at work or symptoms. Many nurses have been pulled from their regular duties to help with COVID patients on hospital floors, and we have used eligible MDs to cover routine hospital patients to allow a specialized team of doctors to exclusively treat individuals with COVID19.
At this point all medical staff who desire the COVID19 vaccine have received the doses, and we are following closely to confirm that this gives effective immunity “in the field.” As with any new technology we are monitoring closely during the deployment all responses to the vaccine, and the major hospital systems will be reaching out to qualifying patients shortly to offer the vaccine in addition to county-wide administration sites.
There is a significant and increasing amount of evidence that mask-wearing prevents the droplet mediated transmission of disease, and may also reduce inoculum size in the event of exposure, and it is most reasonable to continue to take precautions. Pandemic illness and death is higher than it ever has been, and despite great hope on the horizon, it is best to avoid illness in the interim. Avoiding crowds and mask use prevents transmission until immunity becomes widespread – these steps may be life saving.