The coronavirus has spread swiftly through Los Angeles, resulting in crowded hospitals, shortages of essential medical supplies and overworked healthcare workers. As of April 22, the city of four million accounted for over a third of California’s confirmed COVID-19 cases and just under half of the 1,334 deaths in the state.
SigEp brother Frank Somoano, California-Riverside ’17, a nurse at the PIH Health hospital network in Los Angeles, has firsthand knowledge of the city’s coronavirus battle. With the influx of COVID-19-positive patients into the hospital’s intensive care unit, Somoano shifted from working with patients on cardiac monitors to caring for those who are ill and awaiting coronavirus test results. Because of the highly contagious nature of the disease, these patients are isolated in a separate unit.
For Somoano, this means donning an N95 mask for the duration of each 12-hour shift. As hospitals across the country face a shortage of personal protective equipment, Somoano and his colleagues are carefully managing their stock. “We do our best to coordinate and make sure our usage doesn’t exceed our supply,” he said.
An infected person’s condition can quickly progress from stable to critical, so each nurse is assigned just three patients per shift. Somoano divides his time by frequently monitoring patients and checking for updates on their test results, which can take up to 48 hours to receive. As results become available, he arranges for patients to be discharged or moved to the ICU if necessary. He also updates the Los Angeles Department of Public Health on their status.
As each patient moves on, he’s assigned another, meaning he often sees more than his initial three patients over the course of a shift. The patient profile varies widely — some have been as young as 20 years old and reasonably healthy, while others are elderly patients with underlying health issues.
Somoano stressed the importance of flexibility at this time, both for medical professionals and the general public. “It’s a fluid situation, and we all have to understand what it means to be flexible in the face of this crisis while also maintaining safe practices.”
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