Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
KAZU and NPR are bringing our listeners all the latest news on the coronavirus pandemic. Visit NPR's Coronavirus Liveblog for the most critical news and updates for our digital audiences

Monterey County Hospitals Have A Message For The Public: We Need Your Help

Michelle Loxton
26 empty chairs were placed in front of the Monterey County Health Department entrance to represent every resident who has died from COVID-19, as of Wednesday, July 29.


The CEOs of four hospitals in Monterey County held a joint news conference Wednesday to announce a COVID-19 call to action. As the number of hospitalized patients increases locally, the hospitals have put aside competition to emphasize the need for public assistance to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

Twenty-six empty chairs were placed in front of the Monterey County Health Department entrance to represent every resident who has died from COVID-19, as of Wednesday. A moment of silence was marked, and then the hospital CEOs individually announced why they had called this news conference.

The CEOs from Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, Mee Memorial Healthcare System, Natividad and Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System took turns sharing what the community can do to help. 

First up was Pete Delgado, the CEO of Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System. 

“We need the public's help to fight this nasty, sneaky virus. Without that kind of help we'll see more hospitalizations unnecessarily and, unfortunately, more death,” said Delgado. 

Delgado said the hospitals had formed a strong partnership since the start of the pandemic, sharing personal protective equipment and supplies; agreeing on public messaging to avoid confusion; and working together to get drugs for treatment. But Delgado said the most powerful partnership the hospitals can have right now is with the public. 

“Wear a mask. Keep your physical distance, even if you're outside. Wash your hands often and please avoid large gatherings,” said Delgado.

Up next was Gary Gray, the CEO of Salinas-based hospital Natividad, who shared the number of patients with COVID-19 his hospital is currently caring for. 

“This week we've been running between 20 to 22 COVID patients in our hospital. If I were to take you back eight weeks ago, that number was between three and five,” said Gray.

Gray’s message was about testing and how right now we need to test smart and not test everyone. 

“Really focusing on five key groups: people most likely to have the disease, people who are more likely to have a complicated course of the disease, people who can't safely socially distance and people in confined living situations. And people who are hospitalized,” said Gray. 

Gray says this is necessary to unclog the current backlog in testing, where some residents are waiting up to seven days to receive their results. 

When it was Steven Packer's turn, the CEO of Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, he spoke about the current state of hospitalizations in the county. Of the close to 4,300 residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus, about 1 in 10 have required hospitalization, he said.  

"Approximately one in 10 of those individuals require hospitalization. And of those that have been hospitalized in Monterey County, approximately five percent, or one in 20, have died as a result of COVID-19,” Packer said.  

Packer also talked about the state of supplies at local hospitals. 

“We have a dedicated workforce. We have facilities with capacity. We have ventilators. We have therapeutics, and we have PPE,” Packer said.

But added that resources are constrained and not limitless. 

For the CEO of Mee Memorial Healthcare System in South County, Rena Salamacha, it was about what’s been learned about COVID-19.

“We know that the deadly virus can be stopped in its tracks if we all follow certain precautions,” said Salamacha.

Salamanca says wearing a mask doesn’t make you weak. 

“It doesn't mean you're a coward. And it certainly does not mean that you're afraid. It's a way to protect all of those that are vulnerable around you,” Salamacha said.  

For all, it's about creating one united front against COVID-19.


Natividad and Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System are some of KAZU’s many business supporters.


From 2019 to 2021 Michelle Loxton worked at KAZU as an All Things Considered host and reporter. During that time she reported on a variety of topics from the coronavirus pandemic, the opioid epidemic and local elections. Loxton was part of the news team that won a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for the continued coverage of the four major wildfires that engulfed California’s Central Coast in 2020.