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Labor Day weekend sparks concern of increasing COVID-19 cases; hospital preparing for influx

Marian Regional Medical Center
Marian Regional Medical Center staff express concerns about COVID-19 amid Holiday weekend

Labor Day weekend is here, and beaches along the Central Coast are filling up with visitors. But with rising concerns over the Delta variant, health officials said they are preparing for what the holiday could bring as COVID-19 cases continue to surge. 

Infectious disease specialist Trees Ritter said the projections for COVID-19 don’t look promising, with the busy holiday weekend expecting to draw large crowds together.

“After every single holiday this year — after New Year, after spring break, after Fourth of July, we saw a surge about 10-14 days later," Ritter said.

Chief Medical Officer for Marian Regional Medical Center, Barry Feldman, said their hospital in Santa Maria is already stretched thin.

“With this recent surge, we’ve had to open up another ICU," Feldman said. " The surge is back, and we expect it to be back again after this weekend.”

Feldman said their two ICUs consist of 24 beds which are nearing full capacity, and they're preparing to open a third ICU to keep up with demand. He said about 99% of those in ICU are people who are not vaccinated. 

"The people we are seeing, they are healthy, they are in their 20’s, they are in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s," Feldman said. "And a lot of them are dying this time around.”

'Exhausted' and 'frustrated' are the two words Respiratory Care Practitioner Lori Lewis used to describe what it’s like going to work every day. 

“We are trying to work overtime," Lewis said. "[And] pick up extra shifts just to meet the needs of our patients.”

Lewis warns for people getting admitted into the hospital with severe COVID-19 complications, it’s an isolating experience.

“Usually they are frightened, they are not allowed to have their family with them," Lewis said. "I try to reach out to the patients to make sure that they speak to their families because oftentimes that’s the last time they’ll be able to speak to them.”

As hospitals are preparing for what they believe will be another surge of patients, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is strongly urging those who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 to stay home for Labor Day.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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