Inside California hospitals: ‘Like nothing we’ve ever seen’


“...what we're seeing is like nothing we have ever seen.”

As coronavirus cases continue to surge in California and throughout the U.S., Providence St. Mary Medical Center - a small hospital in Apple Valley - has run out of ICU beds for patients.

Inside, coronavirus patients on stretchers line the corridors of the emergency room.

Outside, a tent has been erected to screen and test people for COVID-19.

The pandemic is taking its toll on medical staff, with many unable to cope. Executive director of acute care at St. Mary Medical Center, Mendy Hickey:

“We've had physicians retire, we've had lab staff quit, we've had nurses quit, we've had C&As quit, monitor techs quit. People have left critical care and gone to other units because it's just too much for them anymore. It's just really taking a toll on people. It is."

Kari McGuire, the supervisor of palliative care at the hospital says the death numbers are staggering:

“In my years of doing palliative care - I've been doing this now 13 years - I've probably seen more deaths in this last month than I have almost in my whole career and been at the bedside of that. So, yes, we want the public to take this very seriously.”

Cemeteries are struggling to keep up... Robert Gordon is president and CEO of Cypress Lawn Cemetery Association in Colma, California:

"It's a significant uptick in what we're doing and we're really taxing our systems. We're very fortunate to have made some decisions early on to prepare for the capacity, but it's a lot."

Last spring the cemetery purchased two cold containers used to store bodies. The containers, which each have room for up to 50 people, went unused until the fall.

California, the nation's most populous state, with some 40 million residents, has emerged as a leading U.S. epicenter of the pandemic despite re-imposing some of the most stringent restrictions on social gatherings and business activity.

COVID-related deaths, considered a "lagging indicator" in the pandemic's trajectory, have mounted steadily in California, crossing the grim milestone of 30,000 to date as of Tuesday.