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SAN DIEGO – Hospitals in San Diego and Imperial counties are urging the residents they serve to avoid the traditional Christmas and New Years gatherings, with ICU capacity dwindling.

In a joint statement issued by Alvarado Hospital Medical Center & Paradise Valley Hospital, El Centro Regional Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente San Diego County, Palomar Health, PIONEERS Memorial Healthcare District, Rady Children’s Hospital – San Diego, Scripps Health, Sharp HealthCare, Tri-City Medical Center, UC San Diego Health and VA San Diego Healthcare System, the hospitals made their plea to avoid another post-holiday surge.

“Hospital emergency departments and Intensive Care Units (ICUs) in San Diego and Imperial counties are near or at capacity,” said Dimitrios Alexiou, president & CEO of the Hospital Association of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “In San Diego County alone, more than 40,000 positive tests have occurred since Thanksgiving Day, representing more than a third of the total number of positive cases since the beginning of this pandemic.

“The number of positive tests topped 3,600 last Friday alone,” Alexiou said.

“Yesterday, there were fewer than 45 ICU beds staffed and immediately available to care for more than 2.6 million adults in San Diego County with new patients coming in daily. Imperial County COVID-19 cases continue to grow at one of the highest rates in California, forcing the county’s two hospitals to go beyond their capacity and create beds to treat record numbers of COVID-19-positive patients,” Alexiou said.

“One of the main contributors to this unprecedented surge was people traveling and mingling with multiple households for the Thanksgiving holiday. As a result, hospital capacity across our counties is stretched to its limit. If we do not take steps to prevent a similar surge after Christmas, even more people will become critically ill with the virus, overwhelming hospitals and health care workers,” Alexiou said. “In the worst cases, that could mean delays in care that put lives in jeopardy.”

“We understand the pull of family during the holidays, but San Diego and Imperial counties’ health care workers and hospital leaders implore everyone to make the difficult decision of limiting holiday gatherings to household members,” Alexiou said. “The greatest gift you can give this Christmas is to save lives and reduce the strain on our exhausted health care workers.”