After administering him with oxygen, County of Los Angeles paramedics load a potential Covid-19 patient in the ambulance before transporting him to a hospital in Hawthorne, California on December 29, 2020. - The new variant of coronavirus was detected for the first time today in the United States and Latin America as President-elect Joe Biden vowed to significantly ramp up the vaccination drive. The coronavirus has killed at least 1,775,272 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to an AFP tally on December 29 based on official sources. The United States is the worst-affected country with 334,967 deaths, followed by Brazil with 191,570. (Photo by Apu GOMES / AFP) (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)
California doctor explains LA County ambulance guidance
02:18 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

A person dies from Covid-19 in Los Angeles County every eight minutes, the county said Thursday, underscoring how grim the situation has become in the nation’s most populous county.

More than 11,000 Los Angeles County residents have died of Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data from the LA County Department of Public Health. Almost half – more than 5,000 – of those deaths have occurred in the past two months.

“People who were otherwise leading healthy, productive lives are now passing away because of a chance encounter with the COVID-19 virus,” LA County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday, adding that the county is seeing more than 200 deaths each day.

Just two weeks ago, Ferrer said there was one death every 10 minutes.

The magnitude of hospitalized patients and the staggering rate of increase continue to cause major problems for the community.

“Hospitals are declaring internal disasters and having to open church gyms to serve as hospital units,” County Supervisor Hilda Solis said earlier this week, calling the situation a “human disaster.”

“Our health care workers are physically and mentally exhausted and sick,” she said.

Ambulance crews in LA County have been told not to take patients with little chance of survival to hospitals. Even when patients are lucky enough to get to a hospital, they might languish outside for hours if there’s no more room.

On Thursday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called for help from other regions to help overwhelmed hospitals.

“Just as we sent doctors from California to places like New York when there was that surge, I’m asking for folks across America, if you can spare a doctor or a nurse, if you can spare anything, please send it here, ” Garcetti told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“We’re seeing heroes in our hospitals, we’re seeing angels in our ambulances stretched thin, to just deal with the onslaught right now of what’s happening here at the epicenter.”

Cases have soared 941% since November 1, and so far, the rate of new cases in January is double that of December, according to Ferrer.

In the past two months, the positivity rate in LA County has jumped from 3.8% to 21.8%.

Hospitalizations are 10 times as high as they were on November 1, and Health Services Director Christina Ghaly warned that yet another surge is expected within the next two weeks.

More than 8,000 people are currently hospitalized, with 20% in intensive care units and 19% on ventilators.

Los Angeles County hospitals are still operating in contingency care, but given the overwhelming demand, they could be forced into crisis care mode, Ghaly said. Should that occur, patients could be transferred to other areas, and all hospitals will be required to halt elective surgeries.

CNN’s Alexandra Meeks, Christina Maxouris and Holly Yan contributed to this report.