TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Central California experienced several days of extremely low ICU bed availability during the COVID-19 winter surge, but is now seeing dozens of beds open up across the Valley.
Officials at Sierra View Medical Center in Porterville say their ICU continues to be at capacity almost every day, but add that the number of COVID positive patients in the unit has decreased over the last week.
The number of critically ill COVID patients at Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia has also been falling this month.
There were seven COVID patients in the ICU on Tuesday, compared to 20 one month ago.
"The bottom line is we're staffed and we can take ICU patients and return operations closer to normal now," Dr. Joe Malli said.
Malli says the hospital was at a breaking point during the winter surge, and the battle could often feel like a losing one with so many staff needing to go out due to COVID-19 infection or exposure.
But he says his colleagues always came up with creative solutions to meet the demand for care.
"If we needed to move patients outside of the ICU and accommodate critically ill patients in unconventional ways on different floors like the intermediate critical care unit, we were capable of pulling that off and still feeling confident that we had the resources necessary to take care of those patients," Malli said.
COVID-19 hospitalizations may be on a downward trend, and distribution of the vaccine is expanding.
But Malli says now is not the time to become complacent with our habits.
He knows the prospect of another surge depends on our actions.
"As long as I think we keep ourselves at distance and keep ourselves from socializing in close quarters without masks, there's no reason to believe we won't keep things at bay either," he said.
Deaths from COVID-19 continue to remain high in Tulare County.
Public Health officials say six more people have died from the disease since their last report, bringing the total to 697 since the start of the pandemic.
ICU capacity improves across Central California
COVID-19 hospitalizations is on a downward trend, but now is not the time to become complacent.