COVID numbers are trending in the right direction at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs. However, hospital officials are concerned there could soon be another spike in cases after Super Bowl Sunday.
News Channel 3's Peter Daut spoke with the hospital's chief operating officer, Mike Ditoro.
Peter: What's the latest at Desert Regional and JFK hospitals?
Ditoro: "Well we are, we've seen our census come down from our peak which was around the second week of January, specifically at Desert. We're at about two-thirds of the COVID patients that we had at that point. We're also seeing our positivity rate on our tests start to decline. We average about 100 tests a day and starting in about the second half of January we've seen the positivity rates start to come down. Still a significant number, but it it is trending in the right direction."
Peter: So definitely a sign of hope. Have the hospitals began rolling back some of the surge plans that they've had like the tent for example?
Ditoro: "We do still have the tent. It is not currently in use and there are other surge operations that are still in place. We're still our cohorting our COVID patients to keep them separated from the rest of our patients. We are surging into other areas, consistent with what we've done. as the situation changes, we'll start to back off on some of those surge areas when we can."
Peter: One of the big concerns that we've heard over and over at the hospitals is staffing, as well as the mental health for those frontline health care workers. How is everything right now and HAS staffing improved?
Ditoro: "Staffing has improved. We have a bunch of caregivers that we've gotten from seat CDPH, which has allowed us to mostly stay within the ratios at this point. And we've actually asked for more staff that we expect to get in. So it's definitely improved from that perspective and, you know, I just like to give a big shout out to all of our health care workers again. They they're just tirelessly working through this, their professionalism their their caring is truly inspiring"
Peter: I know that things are trending in the right direction right now but we have the Super Bowl coming up on Sunday. A lot of people are going to be gathering inside. Are you concerned there could be another spike in cases, and what are you telling folks who do plan to get together for the Super Bowl?
Ditoro: It's the same thing we've been sharing with all the holidays and all the big events that have come by, you know, we asked folks to continue to do this, the social distancing wearing a mask reconsider if you're going to go to a very large event, you know, still still keep yourself safe and you know it's it's the long play that we need to make here to truly get ourselves back."
Peter: Last time I spoke with someone from Desert Regional, they were just beginning to offer a monoclonal antibody treatment. How are things going right now with that?
Ditoro: "It's going well. We still have clinics on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and we're seeing referrals from multiple places so it's available to the community and we were excited that we have it and we want to see this program continue to grow."
Peter: Have you seen any patients who have the new variant of the coronavirus?
Ditoro: "If we identify, where we work with COVID to send any of these variants, potential variants in for them to test. So, I don't have hard numbers and it's not something that's alarming here yet."
Peter: Even as cases begin to drop, we've noticed that deaths in the county are still pretty high right now. Is that something you've seen reflected at the hospitals especially amongst our senior population?
Ditoro: It's a high acuity illness and so while we've seen the the overall numbers come down, our ICU census is still at 150% of our capacity for ICU. So it's definitely high acuity so we we do still have the the deaths that are happening. we hope as the numbers trend down but that's going to catch up, as well, to continue, to start to decrease."
Peter: What's the latest with vaccinations at the hospital, have you begun to vaccinate patients?
Ditoro: "Yeah we, with employees we've got about, 70% of our employees that are are in the vaccination process whether they've had one or two doses. We have a large booster clinic scheduled for Friday this week to get most of the remaining employees to have their second dose. We are vaccinating patients of our Cancer Center, 65 and plus. We've got a large group that we've gone through and and we were scheduled out several weeks to continue to vaccinate more. We also started with the community we've done some ems first responders. We had a nice event this past weekend at Mizell Senior Center in Palm Springs. We did 440 of the community members all 65 Plus. It was well attended and just a a nice event and and got a lot of a lot of good feedback from the community where we were happy to be able to do that."