SAN RAFAEL (CBS SF) — With new COVID cases and hospitalizations continuing to soar, Marin has become the first Bay Area county to reach its maximum ICU capacity.

On Tuesday, county health officials reported that all their fully staffed intensive care beds at Marin’s three hospitals were now in use. Of those being treated, 12 of the county’s 29 beds are occupied by COVID patients.

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“We know that community transmission is accelerating exponentially,” Dr. Matt Willis told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. “Our hospitals are at or near full capacity, and case rates in Marin are four times higher than one month ago.”

And that’s with the surge in new cases stemming back to the Thanksgiving holiday still accelerating.

During his Tuesday COVID update, Gov. Gavin Newson reminded Californians that while the COVID vaccine rollout has begun, it will not directly impact the current surge in cases which is filling up hospital rooms, morgues and ICUs at an alarming rate.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re still in the tunnel, going through the most challenging and difficult surge since the beginning of this pandemic,” he said.

According to the county’s COVID dashboard, there were 78 new COVID cases in Marin on Tuesday with 5 hospitalizations. There are currently 214 county residents being treated at local hospitals for severe COVID infections.

In the Bay Area region, ICU availability was at 15.8 percent, slightly over the state’s 15 percent critical level.

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The Southern California region, which includes Los Angeles and San Diego, has just 1.7% availability of ICU beds. San Joaquin Valley has 1.6%. Statewide, that number stood at just 5.7%.

In Los Angeles, local residents were being asked to avoid hospital emergency rooms as the surge of coronavirus patients overwhelm the region’s hospital system. Patients with non-emergency needs were told to visit urgent care centers and similar clinics.

“These are historically high numbers,” Newsom said. “We haven’t seen a positivity rate this high since the first few weeks of
this pandemic, where few people were being tested and no asymptomatic members of the community were particularly being tested.”

Willis warned Marin County Supervisors that the situation could get even more dire. Currently the rate of new cases in Marin are four times higher than a month again.

There are three major hospitals in Marin — Kaiser San Rafael, Marin General and Novato Community Hospital — and they are being taxed to the max.

“As we see increasing case rates, we can anticipate that a week or two weeks from now, unless the surge in cases decreases, the hospitals will be beyond capacity,” Willis said.

It was a warning echoed by state health chief Dr. Mark Ghaly during Tuesday’s update. The math simply is not encouraging.

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“12 percent of those (new) cases will be hospitalized and 12 percent of those hospitalized will require ICU treatment,” Ghaly said. “If you look at where we were two weeks ago with cases more in the range of 15,000 per day on average. And you look at where we are now creeping toward and even above 30,000, that should tell you that in the next couple weeks what our hospitals will be facing — the amount of people knocking on the front door with COVID to the emergency department that need an in-person hospital beds that might need an ICU bed will increase.”