Teams of up to 17 National Guard troops were sent over the past week to staff the hospitals in Shasta and Bakersfield counties. (Shutterstock)

Teams of up to 17 National Guard troops were sent over the past week to staff the hospitals in Shasta and Bakersfield counties. (Shutterstock)

California’s National Guard is deployed to assist four beleaguered hospitals

The rate of COVID cases is very low, but some hospitals are still overwhelmed

By Alyssa Lukpat

New York Times

The California National Guard has been deployed to four hospitals in Northern and Central California, where some areas with relatively low vaccination rates have struggled to handle an influx of COVID patients.

Teams of up to 17 National Guard troops were sent over the past week to staff the hospitals in two counties: Mercy Medical Center Redding, in Shasta County in the northern part of the state; and Adventist Health Bakersfield, Bakersfield Memorial Hospital and Mercy Hospital Southwest — Bakersfield, in Kern County in Central California, according to a statement from the California National Guard.

The rate of recent daily cases per person in California overall is very low, second only to Connecticut in the mainland United States, according to a New York Times database.

But hospitals in some parts of the state have been overwhelmed by a delta variant—driven surge of COVID patients. New cases and hospitalizations reached or exceeded peak levels in mid-September in Shasta County and have been trending back down. In the more populous Kern County, hospitalizations jumped at the beginning of last month but have been falling ever since.

The amount of fully vaccinated people in both counties — 42% of the population — is far below the statewide rate of 59%.

The National Guard’s deployment in California coincides with a mandate that took effect last week that requires all of the state’s health care workers to be vaccinated. Major health systems reported that the mandate had helped boost their vaccination rates to 90% or higher. There have been no reports of mass firings of health care workers in the state.

Each National Guard medical team includes a physician assistant or registered nurse who leads a group of medical and administrative assistants, Lt. Col. Jonathan M. Shiroma, a spokesperson for the state National Guard, said in the statement.

The situation at Mercy Medical Center Redding was further complicated by the Fawn Fire, which left about 30 staff members unable to work toward the end of the month, the Record Searchlight in Redding reported. A spokesperson for the hospital did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday night.

Several states have called on the National Guard to ease the strain on hospitals during the pandemic. Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon asked in August for at least 500 of the state’s National Guard troops to help staff hospitals. Idaho Gov. Brad Little also deployed state National Guard troops this summer.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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