LA City Councilmember Monica Rodriguez displays the COVID “Care” kits that were presented to various organizations at Pacoima City Hall on Wednesday, Dec. 23

Los Angeles Councilmember Monica Rodriguez said sections of the Northeast San Fernando Valley were “quickly becoming the epicenter of this COVID crisis,” and is working in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Fire Department (LAFD) in providing “care kits” for residents to use as another way to slow the increase of COVID-19 cases.

“With tents triaging patients, overwhelmed emergency rooms and ambulances lining up for hours to unload patients, we have reached a critical tipping point in the pandemic,” said Rodriguez at a press conference at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills on Tuesday, Dec. 22.

Rodriguez was joined by Providence Holy Cross Chief Executive Dr. Bernard Klein, who said the Mission Hills facility had gone from having its lowest number of COVID-19 patients (20) in the first week of November “since the pandemic began” to their current crisis level.

“We’ve hit an all-time high of more than 140 patients with COVID in our hospital. And what’s really scary is we still haven’t reached the peak of this current surge,” Klein said.

Klein also emphasized that the doctors and other healthcare workers were not just treating elderly patients (60 and older) with the virus.

“Right now in our hospital we have patients in their 30s, 40s, 50s and up fighting for their lives,” the doctor said. “We’ve had entire families show up with COVID, in some cases multiple-family members hospitalized at the same time. And in some cases, unfortunately, they don’t all survive.”

He said the biggest gift people can give their families, friends, “and our heroic frontline workers” this holiday is to stay in place and not have large gatherings.

“If you do need to go out wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands,” Klein said.

On Tuesday, health officials confirmed the county’s overall total of identified positive COVID-19 cases now stood at 648,062 and the total number of deaths had passed the 9,000 mark (9,031).

The number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 as of Tuesday officially stood at 5,866, although the state’s virus-tracking website put the number much higher, at 6,155. According to the county Department of Health Services, the county’s 70 hospitals with emergency departments had a total of 768 available beds, as of Tuesday, including 71 ICU beds — only 38 of those adult ICU beds.

Since the beginning of the present surge in November, cases have increased by a staggering 862%, according to county figures. For the past three weeks, the County has nearly tripled the daily average number of cases; from 4,000 new cases a day to more than 14,000 new cases a day. And since Nov. 9, average daily death figures had increased from 12 per day to 84 average deaths per day as of last week.

The Northeast Valley contains communities in Rodriguez’s 7th District like Pacoima and Sylmar that have been practically overrun by the surge. Many residents in the district are considered essential workers, i.e. long term care workers providing in-home support services, food and transportation services.

These workers can be repeatedly exposed to persons who knowingly or unknowingly are infected. And if those workers are living in multi-generational homes or small, cramped locations, it could significantly increase their risk of exposure to COVID-19 and other coronaviruses — or the chance of infecting others.

“The Northeast San Fernando Valley is ground zero for this pandemic,” Rodriguez said. “With the virus showing no signs of slowing, the multigenerational working-class households in this area are the very essential workers our city depends on. Without the luxury or means to stay safer at home, they have continued working during the pandemic resulting in higher contraction rates of COVID in the Northeast Valley.”

Residents and workers here — and all over the country — eagerly await the large release of the COVID vaccine now being given to first responders, healthcare givers and those considered most in need. The remainder of the public will have to wait, perhaps until the spring before a vaccine is widely available.

That is one reason Rodriguez, in partnership with the LAFD, began providing COVID Care Kits that include masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and other items to protect these workers while they continue to care for the vulnerable in our city. 

Kits were distributed on Wednesday, Dec. 23,  to organizations that included Chica’s Mom, People in Action for Community and Olive View Hospital. More than 1,000 kits were previously given to organizations including Northeast Valley Health Corporation.

“These COVID Care Kits will give LAFD a resource to leave households where they have been called to treat a positive patient,” Rodriguez said. “The information and tools in the kit will give the other family members a fighting chance to avoid contracting COVID.”

City News Service contributed to this report.

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