By Keith Hobbs
CEO, USC Verdugo Hills Hospital
We are most definitely seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases locally, regionally and nationally — the news is real. We all heard the public health warnings before Thanksgiving; the combination of colder weather, families wanting to gather for the holidays and students returning home from college would likely result in increased exposure and transmission.
At USC Verdugo Hills Hospital we are already seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases in our Emergency Room and among our admitted patient population, and these are not even people who were exposed due to Thanksgiving gatherings. The incubation period of the virus means that surge is still likely a week away.
As I communicated this past spring, USC-VHH stands ready to care for our community. These past nine months have taught us so much about how COVID-19 infects, spreads and responds to treatment. What was once a “novel” coronavirus is no longer so unknown. Informed by this increased knowledge and experience, we adapted and improved our hospital protocols for isolation, testing, masking and visitation, and are prepared to care safely and expertly for ALL members of our community who may need us — those with COVID-19 and those with other acute and chronic health issues as well.
We developed a multi-phase plan that allows for a swift increase in isolated units of COVID-19 patients, an increase in ICU beds and seamless transfer to Keck Hospital of USC for a higher level of care for the most critical patients. Our inventory of and supply chain for personal protective equipment is secure and reliable. Perhaps most significantly, the medical community has developed more informed treatment plans for COVID-19. This includes a better understanding of how to oxygenate COVID-19 patients, the most effective use of medications like remdesivir and steroid treatments, as well as medical advances that are on the very near horizon for widespread use like the monoclonal antibody therapy administered to President Trump. There are several promising vaccines that could soon be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Our hospital and the medical community at large have worked hard these many months to end this pandemic. But what can you do?
You’ve heard it all before, but the answer remains the same. Masking. Distancing. Sanitizing. It is simple — yet often difficult. Difficult because we are all weary. We are all tired of not being able to physically be with our friends and loved ones. We are done with COVID-19. But as I tell my staff at the hospital, COVID-19 is not done with us. If each and every one of us could truly dig deep and continue with these simple things, we could turn this trend around before the end of the year.
If you believe you or members of your family have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, call your health-care provider to walk you through next steps. Reference public health guidance that can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website or locally through the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Most importantly, quarantine yourself (utilizing the public health guidelines) until you can be tested. And of course, our Emergency Department is always open and ready to help if you are experiencing concerning symptoms.
Please remember that we are here to care for our community; but during a public health crisis of this magnitude, we really rely on our community to care for one another. The decisions you make can help keep us and our resources from becoming overwhelmed.
Keith Hobbs is CEO of USC Verdugo Hills Hospital.