Desert Sun: Uptick in Coachella Valley hospitalizations this week is ‘concerning,’ officials say
Nicole Hayden, Palm Springs Desert Sun
While there had been a slight drop in patients utilizing Coachella Valley hospitals since mid-April, the usage kicked back up this week.
Thirty-two people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 this week at the valley’s three hospitals: Eisenhower Health in Rancho Mirage, Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, and JFK Memorial Hospital in Indio.
That number was in the low to mid-20s last week. Since mid-April, the trend had mostly headed downward.
Physicians on a conference call Thursday couldn’t explain why there was an uptick in coronavirus hospitalizations this week, though Eisenhower Health epidemiologist Patricia Cummings said it was “concerning.”
Hospital officials also said they saw a sudden spike in non-COVID patients this week – something they weren’t expecting so suddenly, said Eisenhower Health Chief Medical Officer Alan Williamson.
The three hospitals, along with U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, convened to discuss coronavirus data trends specific to the Coachella Valley. Eisenhower Health plans to release online weekly data reports to provide context for the valley moving forward with reopening the economy.
Tracking this data day-to-day allows local officials to understand if coronavirus spread is growing or shrinking. If it’s growing, that could mean restrictions need to be tighter. If it is shrinking, then officials could start discussing loosening restrictions. This tracking ultimately helps health officials work to flatten the overall curve of cases.
“The reality of the western part of Riverside County is different than the reality of the Coachella Valley,” Ruiz said. “So, we need to look at data within our region to see what is happening. For example, when we start reopening we need to make sure we are tracking data specific to the Coachella Valley because we are more at risk for outside spread here than the west side because of tourism.”
Previously, COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Coachella Valley had peaked at 37 on April 13, following a steady increase that began at the end of March.
Williamson said this week’s rise in non-COVID patients could be since residents are realizing that it is still safe to go to the hospital if they are ill.
Local emergency rooms, he said, saw a dramatic decrease in visits at the start of the pandemic because people feared going to a health care setting would increase their risk of exposure. Officials said this is not the case.
Coachella Valley hospital officials are even exploring ways to reopen operating rooms to start catching up on elective surgeries that had been postponed.
“All of a sudden, our volumes surged back up in the ER for things that we were used to seeing (before the pandemic),” Williamson said. “We weren’t expecting to see it that quickly, but it does make me optimistic that people feel like hospitals are still a safe place to go. If people have non-COVID issues that are serious, they need to go to a hospital.”