By Heather Janssen

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Hospitals in California continue to be overwhelmed.

In Los Angeles, hospitals are making difficult decisions regarding who to treat. In San Joaquin County, ICUs are overflowing double their typical size, and some fear the worst is ahead.

“This is a challenge across all the hospitals right now,” said Marissa Matta, public information officer for San Joaquin County. “To put any extra strain on them would be … a lot. Not only to health care workers but the entire health care system.”

Matta said hospitals are being pushed to the brink, already operating at nearly double their capacity. Many patients are two to a room meant for one. Pre-pandemic, the number of ICU beds in their county was 99. San Joaquin County now has more than 170 ICU beds in operation.

Staffing those beds becomes the next big issue as some health care workers become sick themselves, according to the California Office of Emergency Services. Alternate care sites like Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento are treating some patients, while federal teams of nurses and doctors have deployed to Lodi Memorial and Dameron hospitals to assist.

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Fairfield firefighter-paramedics are also answering the call. The state relies on firefighter teams for hospital help much like they would during a busy wildfire season. Departments with available resources may volunteer to go, and the state reimburses departments later.

“My gut tells me within the next 48 hours this will be happening statewide, just about every department,” Deputy Fire Chief Matt Luckenbach with the Fairfield Fire Department said.

Luckenbach said when firefighters take this statewide call, their local resources can be affected.

“As we lose more and more people, that means more are working extra shifts and that takes its toll,” Luckenbach said.

Hospitals are pleading with people to take extra precautions. Georgina Boyd of Fairfield said she, like many, are trying but find themselves taking some risks.

“People are trying,” Boyd said. “Not being able to see my daughter or hug my grandchildren is worse than death.”

Many people chose to gather over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Health officials said this puts hospitals with the worst potentially yet to come; especially as Los Angeles hospitals make the difficult decision to turn away patients that can’t be revived.

“Every doctor you talk to will say it’s a really hard decision to make, having to turn people away or having to choose how you’re going to treat,” Sacramento County Public Health Officer, Dr. Olivia Kasirye, said.

Dr. Kasirye said area hospitals could face those same choices in the coming weeks.

“I hope we don’t get there but these next two weeks are going to be critical,” Dr. Kasirye said.

Even while hospitals are strained, Matta with San Joaquin County OES said people can still call 911 for medical assistance.

Heather Janssen