Doctors and nurses in California released a harrowing video begging people not to gather for the holidays, saying it will ‘cripple our hospital system’

coronavirus hospital
A patient lies on a stretcher in the hallway of an overloaded ER in a hospital in Apple Valley, California, on December 23, 2020.

  • Frontline workers in California filmed a video urging people to stay home and not gather over the upcoming holidays.
  • In the video, doctors said that a lack of social distancing could “cripple” the hospital system and result in more deaths.
  • Nurses also discussed the devastating impact of the latest surge in the state’s COVID-19 cases on their mental health.
  • Earlier this week health authorities reported that ICUs in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California were already at full capacity, meaning there is no space left for new patients.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As California struggles to deal with a spike in case numbers and an alarming number of COVID-19 deaths, frontline workers in the state are begging people to stay home and not gather for the holidays.

Doctors and nurses from three California health systems – Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, and Dignity Health – made the plea in a video posted on YouTube on Wednesday.

In the clip, several workers warned that choosing to celebrate the Christmas and New Year holidays indoors could overwhelm the state’s healthcare system, and shared the devastating impact that the surge in cases was having on their mental health.

The video also included footage of patients lying on stretchers outside crowded hospitals.

“This surge is beyond what anyone could have imagined,” Dr. Pravin Acharya, an emergency physician, said in the video. “If people continue to gather for the upcoming holiday, we are going to cripple our hospital system.”

The hospital system Acharya works for – Kaiser Permanente – said on Tuesday that 100% of their ICU beds were being used. They are now preparing to double up rooms in their 36 hospitals to meet the 220% increase in COVID-19 patients in the last month alone.

An intensive-care specialist, Dr. Vanessa Walker, also said in the video: “If we continue to gather indoors at the rate that we are, many more of us will not see the holiday next year.”

California has averaged 252 daily coronavirus deaths over the last week, an increase of 73% from two weeks prior to that, according to a tracker from the Los Angeles Times.

Last week, the state reported its highest daily death toll of the entire pandemic – 398 deaths in the space of 24 hours, The New York times reported.

The US remains the worst-hit country in the COVID-19 pandemic, having recorded nearly 18.5 million cases and more than 326,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

california coronavirus active cases
Graph showing active COVID-19 cases in California as of early December 24, 2020.

In the Wednesday video, doctors also expressed their concern about how healthcare workers will be able to handle this alarming surge.

Acharya warned: “I worry about the stamina and mental health of us providers, our nursing staff. What happens if they get sick? Who is going to come to the hospital and work?”

Hans Vega, a registered nurse, also said in the video: “I’m doing all this work for your families, for your friends, for people that you may know, and some people don’t take it seriously out there. Sometimes it feels like a slap in the face.”

Healthcare workers in the US and around the world are facing a mental-health crisis in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, with psychologists telling Insider in April that the stress could flare into chronic psychological problems if it is not managed.

On Monday, the California Department of Public Health reported that ICUs in both the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California were at full capacity.

On Monday, California’s director of Health and Human Services also warned that non-ICU units could also fill up shortly.

“It is true that some regions may begin to exceed their existing stated hospital capacity, not just ICU capacity, by the end of the month and early in January,” Dr. Mark Ghaly told a press conference.

Some hospitals are already setting up tents and trailers as field hospitals to treat more patients.

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