More than 200 patients fill a 131-bed South LA hospital as COVID continues to spike

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The start of 2021 is not that different from last year. LA County is a tale of two worlds. In one, people refuse to wear masks or recognize the pandemic, and in the other, local hospitals are getting overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. 

More than 7,500 coronavirus patients are currently in LA hospitals. Medical workers are struggling to keep up with the influx and facing major staff and resource shortages, like life-saving oxygen equipment.

“We have doubled up rooms. We have converted our post-surgical care unit to intensive care,” says Dr. Elaine Batchlor, the CEO at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in South LA. “We have five tents outside that we’re using for triage and COVID care. We’ve converted our emergency department waiting room completely to treatment space.”

Throughout LA, ambulances are being diverted or made to wait. Medical staff are having trouble finding places for bodies of the recently deceased. 

“The county has actually had to call in the National Guard to come in and help them store bodies in the County Medical Examiner Coroner’s office because there’s no place to store the bodies in the private mortuaries,” says LA Times reporter Rong-Gong Lin.

Health officials say the situation is going to get worse before it gets better.