"Surge on top of a surge": Frontline workers describe dealing with latest COVID spike

As California's COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to soar out of control, healthcare workers are being stretched to their limit. 

Kaiser Permanente San Rafael Medical Center physician-in-chief, Dr. Naveen Kumar said they are operating in "surge footing" due to the coronavirus spike. 

"We think about this as the third surge, in some ways it’s a surge on top of a surge, because cases were already rising," said Kumar. He added, "Every year around the wintertime we actually have surge-type situations, so we know we have to ramp up our capacity: in terms of bed, in terms of staffing, in terms of equipment." 

Marin county's ICU availability dropped to 0% last week based on state metrics, but Kumar wants to reassure people they will receive the care they need if they come to the hospital. He said the numbers are a reminder of how serious this virus is. 

Kumar said one of the hardest parts is trying to comfort patients isolated from their families. 

"We try to spend that extra time, have that understanding, and try to be there for them and remind them the hospital is one of the safest places you can be. I will still hold patients’ hands," he said. 

The pandemic is also taking its toll on EMTs and paramedics. Carolina Snypes, director and chief of Falck, Alameda county's ambulance provider, said they're seeing a notable climb in COVID-19 transports, which can be unnerving in their personal lives. 

"They’re responsible, but there’s always that fear," said Snypes. "There are people here that are having babies just like everyone else. It’s like oh my gosh, my sick parent, my child, it’s a very real fear." 

Snypes said there's also been an uptick in hospital wait times and she only expects it to get worse if there's another spike after Christmas. She and Dr. Kumar are pleading with people to do what they can to stop the spread. 

"We just prompt people to stay home and we urge them to stay home and to stay safe," said Snypes. 

"Let’s really do our best right now to keep COVID in check, we know how to do that," said Kumar.