MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- The tranquil scenery outside the entrance to Mercy Medical Center stands in stark contrast to the activity inside.
"We have a lot of patients, and the patients are sick and actually our critical care unit is running at about 85% full so it is a concern. We have alternate plans for care, but it's a concern," says Chief Nurse Executive Officer Janet Ruscoe.
The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Merced County has more than doubled in recent weeks from 24 on July 1st to 51 on July 20th. The total number of cases, the percentage of positive tests, and the death rate have also risen dramatically since the start of summer.
The county's Public Health Director Dr. Rebecca Nanyonjo-Kemp says, "It's not isolated to what's taking place in Merced, it does speak to what's taking place throughout the state but most specifically in the San Joaquin Valley."
Nanyonjo-Kemp believes several factors are to blame, from holiday get-togethers among large families and friends to some workplace outbreaks to people feeling fatigued by restrictive health orders.
She adds, "This is something that's been going on since February and people are missing out on summer months they are itching to have some semblance of freedom and some semblance of what a normal American life looks like."
Officials say it's also taking longer to get test results back, which means people may be out in the community for up to two weeks before they find out they're positive. That's why health care leaders are once again emphasizing the need to take precautions.
Ruscoe says, "Please, masking, social distancing, it is a critical, critical piece to the health of our community, and we would appreciate that support because we've got a lot of. We've got a lot of sick people here, and we're hoping that that might slow down a little bit."
The county is now actively working to update its plans for how to help patients if all of the available hospitals in this area reach capacity. But again, health officials are urging everyone to take extra precautions to help prevent that from happening.
For more information, including how to schedule a COVID-19 testing appointment in Merced County, click here.
Merced County seeing spike in hospitalizations from COVID-19
Experts say several factors are to blame, from holiday get-togethers among large families and friends to some workplace outbreaks to people feeling fatigued by restrictive health orders.
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