California ER Doctor on COVID Surge: ‘It’s WW3’

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New York National Guard by The National Guard is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Over 350,000 Americans have now died of COVID-19 and COVID-19-related illness according to official statistics. One of the hardest-hit states is California, where doctors are scrambling to respond to severely sick patients who are dying by the hundreds each day.

LA County’s Alhambra Hospital is one of the medical institutions that’s being overrun by the influx of sick individuals, and emergency doctor and assistant director Nick Kwan says it’s absolutely full-on panic mode.


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“This is a full-on Category 10,” Kwan said describing the situation. “It’s literally World War III.”

Although his comments are describing the experience and people dying all around, Kwan is also onto something in terms of the government spending response. Federal spending during the coronavirus pandemic is at levels that this country has not seen since World War 2.

‘Patients Coming in Sicker Than You Can Imagine’

According to Kwan it’s not just how many patients there are that has him surprised and alarmed, it’s how severely sick they are.

“It’s the intensity and sickness of the patients. I’ve never thought some of these numbers are compatible with life, with patients coming in sicker than you can imagine,” he said.

All around the Golden State – and many other parts of the country – it’s the same story, with patients requiring oxygen to stay alive and often needing to be brought back from near death multiple times. Doctors are being traumatized by the experienced as well, with the equivalent of weeks of crises stacked into a single shift because of the virus.

Kwan understands how the public who hasn’t caught the virus or been into a hospital may believe it is being overhyped or used for political reasons but says that when you get the disease or have family who do you see the toll it is really taking.

“I don’t think a lot of people outside are seeing what we are seeing. It’s hard until you are in there, until your family and loved ones are in there,” he said.

Even just Kwan’s Alhambra Hospital – which is about a 15-minute drive west of downtown LA – has been completely filled with patients. One of its emergency room doctors died of COVID-19 and its 144 beds are often full of people from the nearby San Gabriel Valley and is even its waiting room has now become a place to treat the coronavirus. In many cases, ambulances waiting outside with patients waiting to be taken in, while regular hospitals bed set up rapidly into intensive care units.

COVID-19. Doctor holding message sign for COVID-19 Pandemic at blue background by focusonmore.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0

ER Doc: ‘It’s So Unpredictable With Each Case’

“The virus doesn’t care who you are. You can be sick, healthy, young, old,” Kwan said, noting that some elderly people have recovered while younger ones have died and it just depends. “It’s so unpredictable with each case.”

Kwan said the latest surge started at the end of November and since that time it’s been “non-stop.” He isn’t sure why but believes it may be due to the colder weather and holiday gatherings. The fact that Christmas and New Year’s just took place has Kwan highly worried that even worse numbers are on their way.

“For the next month, I don’t see the end. It will keep piling up, and we have got to be ready,” Kwan said.

Hospitals across the state are completely overloaded as well, with O’Connor Hospital in San Jose often only being able to give a patient a new ICU bed when the last one has died.

“Everyone is exhausted. Our CEO is exhausted. Our entire medical staff is exhausted,” Kwan said, noting that doctors are now used to being the last person someone sees before they die.

“You cry with the patients’ family. It’s just sad. I feel like this virus attacks all our humanity,” Kwan said.