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Spared by initial surge, High Desert hospitals inundated by pandemic

VICTOR VALLEY (Dec. 8, 2020) — When COVID-19 hit Southern California in the spring, outlying areas including San Bernardino County’s High Desert region largely were spared.

Mirroring the national trend, however, the communities of Victor Valley, some 90 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, are under siege by the virus and hospitals that saw a sprinkling of patients in past months are stretched to their limits.

Since this second surge began, the number of patients hospitalized for severe COVID-19 symptoms at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley has hovered near the 100 mark, roughly double the number of patients treated in the spring. The nurse team has expanded through contract agencies and personal protection equipment supplies are shared across its parent organization, the Providence health system.

“This is unprecedented for our hospital, and I’m in awe by the way the health care community has stepped up to care for some very, very ill patients,” said Randall Castillo, chief executive of Providence St. Mary. “Please, for the sake of your loved ones and your community, take this seriously and help slow the spread.”

Desert Valley Hospital, a member of Prime Healthcare, in neighboring Victorville has been treating double the number of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 from the June/July surge. These patients require a higher level of care and are in need of hospitalization.

“Our Desert Valley team has been exceptional in caring for these patients, as well as those entering our Emergency Department with non-COVID-19-related illnesses,” said Fred Hunter, chief executive officer of the hospital and the Desert Valley Medical Group. 

Hunter and Castillo stress the importance of following stay-at-home guidelines set forth by the state of California.

“COVID-19 is real,” Hunter said. “As a community, we have a responsibility to one another, first and foremost. Every community member is part of the frontline in this fight against COVID-19. Prevention begins with each of us. Please wash your hands, wear a face covering, and practice social distancing. These are simple steps we can all do to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. I also encourage our community to get the flu shot this season.”

The hospitals continue to adapt to the needs of patients and staff, ensuring adequate PPE and a dedicated space to care for patients diagnosed with COVID-19. Nevertheless, Castillo and Hunter urge the public to get help for serious illness and injury unrelated to the virus, noting delaying care for symptoms of stroke or heart attack can result in complications, including death.

“Patients suffering from COVID-19, and the staff caring for them, are in isolated areas of the hospital to ensure safety for all,” Castillo said. “Please don’t wait until it’s too late to get the care you need.”

Vaccines are in the near future, but then next few months will be tough. Individuals can help by scaling back holiday plans to help contain the virus.

“We as a community should be concerned if this trend continues. Our staff are committed, and we are grateful to them for continuing to give selflessly to the care for our patients,” Hunter said.

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