Dr. Chad Krilich, the chief medical officer for Providence St. Joseph Health, has personally witnessed the uptick.
“We're seeing an increased number of patients that are testing positive, we're seeing an increased number of hospitalizations, we're seeing an increased number of inpatient mortalities,” Krilich said.
Krilich said Providence's three Sonoma County hospitals are treating about 40 COVID positive patients with 10 in intensive care, mirroring figures from last November, before vaccines became available. But the hospitalization rate is not as high as the last winter's surge, when Krilich said his hospitals had to open additional COVID units.
The uptick is county-wide. A total of 71 COVID patients are currently hospitalized and 17 are in ICUs, more than four times the patient load local hospitals faced last May.
And Krilich says this uptick in COVID patients impacts Providence hospitals' abilities to care for other patients.
“We're talking about patients who may need to see a specialist,” Krilich said. “A heart doctor or gastroenterologist or a surgeon, and those patients are waiting in emergency rooms, in outlying areas because we do not have the capability with which to bring them in by the virtue of the fact that we have patients we are caring for that have COVID.”
Krilich said his colleagues are also seeing younger patients than previous surges.
“Our caregivers and physicians are seeing the realities of unvaccinated, younger patients having this disease and needing to progress to being on a ventilator,” Krilich said.
While patients between the ages of 50 and 64 have the highest hospitalization rates throughout the county, officials say 80 percent of hospitalized COVID patients and 90 percent of those in the ICU are unvaccinated.
Krilich said Sonoma County's vaccination rate of 72 percent is good, but it will take sustained efforts to move that higher.
“Good isn't good enough when you're talking about patients that have a preventable disease that can lead to them expiring,” Krilich said. “If you're vaccinated, your job is not done. I would say it's your duty to have a conversation with someone who's unvaccinated today.”
Sonoma County’s Kaiser Permanente hospitals are also seeing an increase in cases.
“We are closely monitoring an increase in hospitalizations and positive test rates for COVID-19 in Kaiser Permanente Northern California, including our Santa Rosa Medical Center,” Tarek Salaway, senior vice president and area manager of the Kaiser Permanente Marin-Sonoma service, area wrote in a statement to KRCB.