Ambulance paramedics in Los Angeles County, California, have been told not to transport patients who have extremely low chances of survival.
The directive comes as officials say hospitals are overrun with patients and the region could soon hit over 1,000 Covid-related deaths per day.
Emergency workers have also been told to ration oxygen, which is in short supply due to the pandemic.
New York City issued a similar directive to ambulance workers in April 2020 at the height of the city’s Covid outbreak, instructing them not to bring in patients who were unable to be resuscitated at the scene.
The LA County Department of Public Health reported over 9,000 new Covid cases on Monday, and an additional 77 deaths. The county, which is the worst hit in the US, has recorded over 800,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 11,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Hospitals in California, which are already at maximum capacity, have begun warding patients in gift shops, parking lots and outdoor tents. Ambulances are having to queue outside hospitals for hours as they wait for Emergency Room workers to take their patients.
Dr Marianne Gausche-Hill, the medical director of LA County’s Emergency Services Agency, who issued the latest directives, told CBS News that ambulance workers will continue to work to save lives of patients at the scene.
“We are not abandoning resuscitation,” she said. “Treating heart attack and stroke patients at the scene can increase chances of survival but what we’re emphasising is the fact that transporting Covid-19 patients who cannot be resuscitated leads to very poor outcomes.”
The US as a whole has now broken its record for the number of coronavirus patients in hospital.
On Monday, 2,800 Americans were admitted for Covid-19, the highest daily total yet. This brings the total number in hospital to 128,210, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Over 23,000 patients were listed as in intensive care.
In California, the number of patients in hospital for coronavirus has doubled in the past month. The LA mayor said on Sunday that a new infection occurs there every six seconds.