SANTA ANA, Calif. – For doctors and nurses on the front lines the reality of this pandemic is in front of them every day.
Serena Barrera is a registered nurse at KPC Health Orange County Global Medical Center, which is a 282-bed hospital in Santa Ana. KPC nurses have been treating COVID-19 cases since early March, and she says that while the threat of the virus is invisible, the effects are anything but.
“You know, you go out and you see people who don’t have a mask or don’t take it seriously. They think it’s a joke because they don’t understand. But it’s serious,” says Barrera.
The hospital is treating its COVID-19 patients in negative pressure rooms, which act as a giant vacuum. Each of these environmental containment units maintains a negative pressure by sending more air out than the room takes in.
Kyle Houraney is the Orange County Operational Area Incident Commander for KPC Health, which spent millions to roll out assets. The hospital has over 60 COVID-19 beds and plans to double that number.
With the hospital now performing electives surgeries again, and Orange County having one of the highest numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state, it’s essential for this hospital, that has served the community since 1902, to stay ready.
“The sense is, the COVID patients, the increase that we’re seeing in Orange County, by no means are we out of the woods yet. That’s where we’re at in our command center. So right now just because we have set-up this equipment - we’re still preparing for the worst,” Houraney says.
The room itself is sealed off. Anyone going in or out like Barrera wears a full set of personal protective equipment and enters in a warm zone before walking into the COVID-19 hot zone.
She is one of nearly three million registered nurses in the United States. But it’s their humanity that can’t be forgotten their choice to put patients before family.
“That part’s stressful for everybody. Because you don’t want to give it to your family. Everybody’s worried about catching it on the outside, but they don’t think about all the workers that are here, all the nurses that are here all day long,” Barrera says.