In his first COVID-19 briefing as mayor of Santa Clarita, Bill Miranda reiterated a clear message Friday to the community: Be safe this holiday season.
“We want to wish you all, our citizens of Santa Clarita, a very safe and enjoyable holiday season. Do your best,” he said in a city broadcast. “I know we all want to socialize; I know we all want to get with family and friends. Do it virtually if you can. Be safe. It’s very important. We’re running out of ICU beds — be safe.”
His message comes a day after the intensive care unit availability in the Southern California region reached 0% and as Los Angeles County continues to report thousands of new diagnoses and hospitalizations daily.
For perspective, total daily hospitalizations across the county spiked from 791 on Nov. 1 to more than 5,000 to date, the average daily deaths rose from 12 to 70 this week, and nearly four times the average daily cases since the 5,900 reported during the last week of November, according to Public Health data. The same has been true for the Santa Clarita Valley, which has seen anywhere between 157 to 368 daily cases over the past seven days and at least one new death every day for the past two weeks at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.
Public Health and Henry Mayo officials have pleaded that people avoid travel or gathering with others outside of one’s household amid the holiday season and to practice measures like wearing a face mask, physical distancing and staying home as much as possible.
“I’m afraid that the strongest data we have is after every holiday the incidence of diagnosis, as well as for hospitalizations, spikes,” Henry Mayo President and CEO Roger E. Seaver said during the virtual briefing with Miranda. “So, there’s a huge concern over this holiday that, if we have the same spiking, it will totally overwhelm California, and it’s really at a breaking point as far as having enough people to take care of those that actually contract the disease.”
While health officials have described the recent COVID-19 toll as “overwhelming,” they have also said there’s “a light at the end of the tunnel” as many hospitals have begun administering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, including at Henry Mayo, which inoculated more than 300 frontline workers Thursday as part of its first shipment of 1,400 vaccines.
“While we’re tired, and, you know, we’re stretched, we also know that there’s hope with this vaccine, and we started yesterday vaccinating our frontline, and you can just see the light in our staff again just knowing that there is light at the end of this,” said hospital ICU Director Jennifer Fitzpatrick, who joined Miranda and Seaver in the briefing. She and Seaver learned Friday the city and Saugus Cafe partnered to provide medical staff with meals as a token of gratitude for their work throughout the pandemic.
The hospital is expected to receive additional vaccines in the coming weeks in similar numbers, according to Courtney Mattley, a clinical coordinator of pharmacy who administered the first vaccine shot to ICU nurse Kathy Brady on Thursday.
Fitzpatrick did not indicate when the hospital can expect to have enough of the vaccine for it to be widely available in the SCV, but said that as they wait for the next steps on allocation to the community, “that’s our hope.”
With the deployment of about 327,000 Pfizer vaccines across California, the Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved emergency use of Moderna’s vaccine as well.