COVID trends still high in Ridgecrest

With COVID positivity rates continuing to rise in our community, despite declines county- and state-wide, Ridgecrest Regional Hospital (RRH) officials have cautioned residents not to get complacent about protecting themselves and their neighbors from infection.

More than a year and a half into the pandemic, most people are numb to the news of the serious risks of hospitalization and death related to the illness. “But we can’t forget this is a dreadful infection that kills people,” said Dr. Susan Reynolds, chief medical officer at RRH.

“People outside of the medical profession don’t hear the soundtrack of this illness — the patients huffing and puffing, the sounds of the ventilators, the tearful goodbyes from people who are losing their loved ones,” said Reynolds.

She said that the best defense against new outbreaks are to make sure all those eligible have been vaccinated (including appropriate boosters), and that people continue to follow recommended guidelines for masking, distancing and sanitizing.

“One thing many people do not understand is how differently individuals can be affected by COVID. You can have it and not even know it, and end up giving it to someone who could die from it.

More than 100 individuals locally have been hospitalized, often putting RRH at or over capacity. “And there is nowhere to transfer people because Bakersfield is full, too,” said Dr. Reynolds.

“If we are overwhelmed by COVID, we are not only limited in our ability to treat outbreaks but we would be unable to accommodate the needs for heart attacks and other injuries.”

Like other healthcare facilities across the nation, staff has been impacted by the cumulative exhaustion of the prolonged crisis. “We are also starting to see something called ‘compassion fatigue.’ People are worn out, and we need our community to do their part to protect themselves.”

Even as the summer surge appears to be fading, Dr. Reynolds noted that last year we saw even steeper spikes during the late fall and winter months. Public health officials have pointed to flu season and holiday gatherings as potential factors in last year’s spike, and warn people not to get too relaxed in their precautions.

Reynolds said that she hopes the availability of vaccines this year could make a difference.

Although vaccinations for the Ridgecrest community is still lagging behind state averages, Reynolds pointed out that our rates are beginning to increase.

As of Oct. 12, the percentage of those who had had at least one shot had climbed to 49% — up from the low 30s just a few weeks before.

“We are going in the right direction, but we have to keep going. Get vaccinated. It saves lives.”

Dr. Reynolds noted that although people can still get COVID even if they are vaccinated, the vaccinated make up only a fraction of the individuals who experience hospitalization — or death — from the illness.

Earlier this month, RRH began offering boosters to eligible patients. Patients who wish to obtain a first dose can ask their provider at any RRH clinic and walk-in vaccination appointments are also available at the RRH Urgent Care. For other local vaccination locations and availability visit myturn.ca.gov.