Omicron surge incapacitates 800 police officers and firefighters in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (AP) – A dramatic increase in coronavirus cases has incapacitated more than 800 Los Angeles city police and fire service personnel, resulting in slightly longer ambulance and fire response times, raising concerns over the shortage of critical personnel, including Health workers, reinforced.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said Thursday that more than 500 LAPD officers and other law enforcement officers, as well as nearly 300 firefighters, were off duty after testing positive for COVID-19, although he said steps would be taken to ensure the safety of the public.

“It’s an incredibly difficult moment,” said Garcetti. “The Omicron variant caught on like wildfire.”

The surge in cases in the country’s most populous state threatens to overwhelm hospitals. State officials extended a mandate for inner masks to mid-February on Wednesday as the Omicron variant also incapacitates health care workers, leading to hospital staff shortages that could become a bigger problem.

“We are and are concerned about our hospitals,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, Minister for Health and Human Services. “Some facilities are buckled up.”

Public health officials across the state have advised residents to avoid emergency visits for COVID-19 tests or treatments that could be performed by a family doctor, telemedicine, or emergency clinic.

California’s confirmed cases are up nearly 500 percent in the past two weeks, and hospital admissions have doubled to more than 8,000 since Christmas. State models predict hospital admissions could exceed 20,000 by early next month, a level almost as high as last January when California saw its deadliest spike.

California had the lowest per capita case rate in the US in September, but like the rest of the country, it is now seeing a dramatic increase from the new variant. In terms of new cases per capita in the last two weeks, it is now in 29th place.

Los Angeles city firefighters volunteered overtime and others were forced to stay on duty after their shifts ended to keep the workforce going, Chief Ralph Terrazas said. He also planned to cancel approved vacation.

The absences forced some fire trucks and ambulances to be out of service for 24 hours, but all fire stations remained open, Terrazas said. Ambulance response times are 13 seconds slower than last year, and fire department calls are six seconds slower.

CONTINUE READING: Grammy Awards postpone the ceremony, citing the risk of an Omicron variant of COVID

Police Chief Michel Moore said it took an average of three weeks for officers affected by COVID-19 to get back to work, but they have not yet forced others to stay on the job to meet demand.

“That lever is still ahead of us,” he said. “I don’t want to suggest that we want to endure the current staff shortage for months. … We see this as an upswing which, it is our hope and our faith, will only last for a short time. “

Los Angeles County’s Fire Department, which is separate from the city council, has 450 firefighters absent after testing positive, Acting Deputy Chief Brian Bennett told Carson City Council on Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

In Fresno County, more than 300 workers in the area’s hospitals have recovered from COVID-19 or have been isolated from exposure to the virus, said Dan Lynch, the county ambulance director. Ambulance staff will likely be asked to screen patients and only transport people with real emergencies to the emergency room.

The Grammy Awards, slated for January 31 in Los Angeles, were postponed indefinitely on Wednesday due to health and safety concerns, and the NFL announced that they are looking for alternative locations for the Super Bowl in LA next month seeks.

While the league finds replacement venues every year, it could come into play if there are viewer restrictions, though Garcetti said he doubted it would be postponed.

“I am confident that this will happen and that we will have a great Super Bowl celebration,” he said.

Ghaly encouraged unvaccinated people to get vaccinated and others to freshen up if they haven’t already to help prevent or lessen the effects of infection. He said the vaccines and therapeutics to treat COVID-19 are all part of an approach that was largely missing a year ago and there is no discussion of further restrictions.

Los Angeles said it would require employers to equip workers in confined spaces with medical masks from Jan. 17.

Associate press journalists Jocelyn Gecker and Janie Har in San Francisco contributed to this report

Comments are closed.