Jan. 5 (UPI) -- Los Angeles-area hospitals began rationing medical supplies and care this week as public health officials warned people to assume that COVID-19 is "everywhere."
The Los Angeles Emergency Medical Services Agency issued a pair of memos Monday telling ambulance drivers to use oxygen only in the most extreme cases. They were also instructed not to transport patients who have little chance of survival to area hospitals.
The instructions came as the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported 77 new coronavirus deaths and 9,142 new cases Monday bringing its overall total to 10,850 deaths and 827,498 cases.
The county has doubled its number of COVID-19 cases in slightly more than a month as the virus spikes throughout Southern California. About one in five people getting tested for the virus are positive in Los Angeles County -- a number that's expected to worsen.
As of Monday, there were 7,697 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Los Angeles County, 21% of which were in the intensive care unit. In early November, there was a daily average of 791 people hospitalized with the virus.
"Everyone needs to keep in mind that community transmission rates are so high that you run the risk of an exposure whenever you leave your house," a statement from the county health department said. "Assume this deadly, invisible virus is everywhere, looking for a willing host."
Hospitals are so overwhelmed with patients this week that there's not enough oxygen to treat everyone.
Several outbreaks in Los Angeles County have been tied to work sites, notably big box and grocery stores. More than 250 Costco workers have taken ill at seven locations, 402 FedEx employees at eight locations and 210 workers at Amazon facilities, while Home Depot, Target, McDonald's, In-N-Out, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods reported outbreaks as well.
The explosion of cases has affected the entertainment industry as well. The SAF-AFTRA actors union agreed Sunday to recommend a temporary work stoppage in Southern California, and the Grammy Awards were postponed from Jan. 31 to possibly sometime in March.