Hundreds More Suspected of Having Coronavirus Now in Local Hospitals

NBC 7 Investigates looks at the number of suspected positive cases in San Diego County

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Hundreds of more people potentially infected with the deadly coronavirus may be inside San Diego County hospitals and intensive care unit rooms than was previously thought.

California’s Department of Public Health has released numbers of those suspected to have the disease who have been admitted to local hospitals and ICU units in San Diego County. The numbers are far more than what the county of San Diego has reported. 

Data from the county of San Diego has shown that there has been a slight decrease in hospitalizations and ICU patients in recent weeks. But the new data shows those numbers are in flux.

And as the county, and the country for that matter, struggle to streamline the capacity to test for the disease, public health officials and the media have looked to hospitalizations as a reliable metric in showing the rise in infections. 

Since the outbreak, county health officials have cautioned the public that the numbers of those infected with coronavirus are likely 10 times the number of those who have tested positive. However, the hundreds of suspected cases in local hospitals show that the severity of the illness might be worse than previously reported.

The data of suspected cases shows that local hospitals are caring for many more patients who are potentially sickened with the coronavirus and that there are many more people in San Diego stricken with severe cases. 

The state’s data shows that as of April 1, 340 people are suspected to have COVID-19 in addition to the 168 patients now hospitalized who tested positive for the virus. 

And, dozens more who are suspected of having the virus are in ICUs in San Diego hospitals. According to state data, 32 people are receiving acute medical care in local ICU rooms, this in addition to the 71 patients who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Statewide, San Diego County has the second-highest number of confirmed coronavirus patients, behind Los Angeles County where 739 people were hospitalized as of April 1, and an additional 1,332 patients were suspected of having coronavirus.

In a statement, a spokesperson for San Diego County told NBC 7 Investigates that the county’s data is “ahead” of the state’s data. 

“The County does not report on suspect cases as these are rarely reported to Public Health Services. The California Department of Health may be listing some of the County cases as suspected as they are awaiting complete information to fill in their case files.  The County data will always be ‘ahead’ of theirs.”

According to some nurses, the virus and its impact are growing.

“Every day that I worked this week, every day I came in we had more patients," said Becky Buckingham, an ICU nurse at Kaiser. "We are starting to see the impacts hit us now. We’re seeing more patients come up positive. We’re seeing patients who came in with mild symptoms that progressed to worse cases and then have to be put on life support.”

Buckingham says she and others inside the ICU do their best to keep a positive attitude, not only for their sake but for the sake of the patients.

“It's hard. But, we try to keep a good attitude and work our hardest to try to save patients’ lives. That’s not changing now, just because these patients have COVID," said Buckingham. "We’re still there to do our job and sometimes when we leave the hospital we cry just to release our stress and anxiety but when we’re at work we know we have to keep it together.”

We’re still there to do our job and sometimes when we leave the hospital we cry just to release our stress and anxiety but when we’re at work we know we have to keep it together.

Becky Buckingham - ICU Nurse

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