As the number of deaths in San Joaquin County related to the novel coronavirus increased to four Friday afternoon, officials at Adventist Health Lodi Memorial Hospital said doctors and nurses are treating residents ignoring symptoms and orders to stay home.
Daniel Wolcott, president of Adventist Health Lodi Memorial, said staff is treating patients of all ages and demographics testing positive for COVID-19.
Hospital officials are not disclosing how many patients in Lodi have tested positive for COVID-19. However, the number of cases countywide increased to 93 Friday afternoon.
In a joint media statement with city leaders, Wolcott said hospital staff is seeing patients who have admitted feeling ill and going to the emergency room after leaving work or shopping centers.
“There are plenty of stories about young people not taking this health threat seriously,” Wolcott said. “But, unfortunately, many members of the most at-risk populations, such as the elderly, are also disregarding and downplaying the warnings.”
Jeff Hood, public information officer for City of Lodi, said firefighters on service calls are also encountering people with active symptoms, and are taking every precaution to keep themselves, and other members of the community, free of exposure.
Wolcott said the hospital will not have enough beds to serve the expected surge of patients if the curve of infection is not reduced, and urged residents to follow recommendations for social distancing, hygiene and frequent cleaning of surfaces.
“If you think this is just about the elderly, you are wrong,” Wolcott said. “It’s about anyone who needs hospital care during the surge. Our health care workers want to be able to deliver the best care to every patient with every need — whether it is labor and delivery, stroke care, auto injury or chest pain. We don’t want to have to choose which types of patients get care.”
Lodi City Councilman Alan Nakanishi said he has never been more concerned about the well-being of the Lodi community than he is now. He noted the recent outbreaks in New Orleans, New York City and Seattle, and said it is possible a similar incident could appear in Lodi.
“I know the stay-at-home orders are an inconvenience and we want our lives to return to normal,” Nakanishi said. “But this virus can affect everyone, regardless of age. Please take this seriously.”
The joint statements from Wolcott and the city come a day after San Joaquin County tightened its stay-at-home order banning all travel except for essential needs, and prohibiting public and private gatherings of any size, except for households.
In addition, Thursday’s new order from the county eliminated the stay-at-home expiration date of April 7, making new regulations in effect until further notice.
“Unfortunately, not all are taking this health threat seriously,” Lodi Mayor Doug Kuehne said. “Not only are people needlessly risking their health, they’re risking the lives of their families, coworkers and friends, and it needs to stop.”
On Friday, Congressman Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, held a town hall teleconference with his District 9 constituents with San Joaquin County Public Health Officer Dr. Maggie Park, and Brian Tang, Deputy Director of Income Maintenance for the San Joaquin County Human Services Agency.
McNerney, Park and Tang fielded questions of concern from residents on topics including the status of Congress’ COVID-19 relief bill, what the novel coronavirus' symptoms are, and what the county is doing to try and flatten the curve of positive tests.
During the town hall, Park said the county could see a surge of positive tests in April, as not all patients who are asymptomatic — those not showing signs of the virus but are possibly carriers — are being tested.
“We’re seeing increases in positive tests by 10 a day,” she said. “My staff is currently looking at a possible surge to the point where hospitals might become overwhelmed. Hopefully we won’t peak so high where we have more hospitalizations than we can handle, but people have to continue social distancing and frequently washing and cleaning to get ahead of this curve.”
Lodi Police Capt. David Griffin said officers in the department continue to try to educate the public about the rules set in place by county health officials.
There have been instances during the stay-at-home order in which officers have had to disperse large crowds. When that happens, he said officers remind participants in the group that they must adhere to social distancing and public group regulations.
“We don’t want to go out and write tickets for everybody we see violating one of the rules,” he said. “We simply go out, and we have a discussion and get people to understand why the order is in place and why it’s important for community safety. That’s the best way to go.”