By Laura Haefeli

SACRAMENTO COUNTY (CBS13) — A frontline worker is offering a stark warning to the public as COVID-19 cases surge and hospitalizations increase across Northern California.

Erin O’Rourke, a trauma nurse practitioner, has seen coronavirus up close. She wasn’t comfortable disclosing which hospital she works for but says she does have their support.

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“We’re not flattening the curve. At this point, the curve is exponentially growing,” O’Rourke said. “We’ve been working in this pandemic for eight months now. Staff is tired. We’re emotionally and physically exhausted.”

She says her biggest fear is that the virus is showing no signs of slowing down. She says with more patients coming in, soon some may have nowhere to go.

“There’s definitely a higher amount of patients that are positive in the hospital,” O’Rourke said.

With less than 2,000 ICU beds available across the state and less than 80 in Sacramento County, her hospital is not the only place feeling the pressure.

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“If the ER is at capacity and there are overflow patients in the ER and they can’t get admitted up to beds, then at some point the hospital has the right to say we can’t take anymore. It will be more challenging to treat patients as quickly and effectively as we’re used to,” O’Rourke said. “Our nurses work extremely hard. They’re coming in on their days off. They’re working overtime.”

O’Rourke says she’s proud of her unit for staying afloat, but it’s not easy. She said some medical care providers are testing positive for coronavirus themselves and the combination of more patients and less staff could be devastating.

“I do wish people would believe that this is real. I miss what life was a year ago too, but the reality is that sometimes you don’t get what you want in life. Wear masks social distance and minimize exposure as best you can,” O’Rourke said.

So far, she says the hospital she works at has the proper PPE available and a plan in place for potential overflow of patients.

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