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Fresno ICU Doctor on Packed Hospitals: ‘There is No Help on the Way’



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The last time Dr. Eyad Almasri had a day off was in November, when he was infected with COVID-19. His symptoms were not life-threatening, but it crushed him, he said, that he couldn’t be with his patients for 10 days.

A pulmonologist with the Fresno campus of UC San Francisco, Almasri works in the intensive care unit at Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno — so packed with COVID-19 patients that the hospital has had to create makeshift isolation wards, including one in a hallway. Exhausted staff, working long hours seven days a week, rarely take off their protective gear because the entire area is the “dirty zone” — a phrase Almasri detests. With so many patients, there is no time for breaks anyway.

The story was similar this week in much of the San Joaquin Valley, where hospitals were crowded with COVID-19 patients. As of noon Saturday, availability of ICU beds in the region was zero. Fresno, a metro area with more than 1 million people, hit that dubious marker two days earlier.

“There is no help on the way,” Almasri said Thursday. “I can’t tell you how scared people are, and I can’t even sit there and hold their hands. There are so many others waiting.”

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