The hospitals in San Joaquin County have passed their intensive care unit capacity as COVID-19 infections continue to climb.

On Wednesday, the San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services reported that ICUs were at 121% capacity. Tiffany Heyer, spokeswoman for the county OES, explained that the county ordinarily has 99 beds for all ICU patients across seven hospitals, but had to add 21 beds to handle the increasing numbers of ICU patients. Out of 120 patients in intensive care as of Tuesday, 66 were being treated for COVID-19.

Overall the county’s hospitals had reached 71% of their capacity as of Tuesday. Out of 699 people hospitalized across all seven hospitals, 195 were confirmed COVID-19 patients, with numbers continuing to rise. The California Department of Public Health reported that as of Wednesday, San Joaquin County had 246 people hospitalized for COVID-19, though the county health department had not confirmed that figure as of Thursday afternoon.

St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton had the largest group, with 308 people hospitalized, including 81 confirmed COVID-19 patients, and 41 of that hospital’s 61 ICU patients were being treated for complications from COVID-19.

Sutter Tracy Community Hospital has 29 beds in use. Nine of those people are in the hospital for COVID-19, and two of them are in intensive care.

Sutter Tracy CEO Dave Thompson said that the hospital can handle 35 or more overnight patients, and the local hospital continues to prepare for more patients. He said the challenge is to keep staffing up as hospital personnel continue to be at increased risk of being infected with the coronavirus.

“The longer it goes on, the more you risk health care workers getting ill,” he said. “We’ve been lucky. We’ve had only a few people get ill. We’re adequately staffed and we’re taking actions to make sure we continue to have adequate staff.”

Dan Burch, administrator for the county’s Emergency Medical Services Agency, said that the California EMS Authority and Adventist Health Lodi Memorial Hospital had arranged for a team of 20 federal health professionals, including doctors, registered nurses, nurse practitioners and respiratory therapists, to arrive in the county on Wednesday, which would allow county hospitals to increase their ICU capacity by 15%.

San Joaquin County had seen 7,680 COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday. Infections declined after the initial surge in March and April, with only three or four new cases most days during the first week of May, but reports of new daily cases started climbing again at the start of June.

The county first reported more than 100 new cases in one day (147) on June 12, and passed 200 cases per day (202) on June 27. There have been more than 200 new cases reported on 16 of 19 days since then, including the single-day peak of 381 new cases on July 3.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 557 Tracy residents had been confirmed to have COVID-19 since the first cases were reported in March. Most of them, 388, live within the 95376 zip code at the center of town, bordered by Interstate 205 and Valpico Road, and Corral Hollow Road and MacArthur Drive.

Mountain House, in the 95391 zip code, has had 62 cumulative cases.

For most of May, the county had fewer than 20 people in the hospital with COVID-19 on any single day, but hospitalizations started to climb in June, and by the end of the month, more than 100 people per day were hospitalized for COVID-19 in the county. That number reached a new peak Wednesday with 246 people hospitalized, according the state health department.

The county has recorded 81 deaths from COVID-19, including 13 people who have died in the past week.

Hospitalizations statewide for COVID-19 hit an early peak April 7, with 5,792 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients across the state. From the start of May until the third week of June, cases stayed below 5,000 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients, but the numbers have consistently been on the rise since mid-June. The state passed 6,000 hospitalizations on June 28 and had 8,363 people hospitalized as of Wednesday.

Daily deaths from COVID-19 in California rose steadily up until April 22, when 115 deaths were reported, which remained the peak for single-day deaths until last week. So far in July, there have been seven days when 100 or more deaths were reported, including four days in a row from July 6 to 9. The new single-day peak is 149 deaths on July 8.

As of Wednesday, California had recorded a total of 356,178 COVID-19 cases since the first known cases in late January. Though the rate of new infections increased daily, it stayed below 2,000 cases per day through most of April and remained stable until the end of May, when new cases spiked at 3,705 on May 30.

New daily infections rose above 4,000 on June 17 and have been above 6,000 new cases all but one day since June 29. On July 5, new cases reported in a single day rose above 10,000 for the first time (11,529), and peaked again July 7 (11,694).

Testing has gone up in that time too. The state had been testing fewer than 40,000 people a day up until mid-May, and by mid-June, the state was testing more than 60,000 people a day. That was soon up to more than 80,000 people a day. On nine of 14 days since July 2 the state tested more than 100,000 people per day, with 137,766 people tested on July 12.

Contact Bob Brownne at brownne@tracypress.com or 830-4227.

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