In Los Angeles, Pandemic Life Depends on Where You Live

As the sprawling city hit its Covid-19 peak in January, some families were devastated — and some others didn’t even slow down

Dr. Nicole Van Groningen is exhausted. A hospitalist and assistant professor at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Van Groningen has been on the front lines fighting Covid-19 for 11 months, and as L.A. comes down from its worst surge in cases since the pandemic began, she’d spent the final two weeks of January at the hospital’s overwhelmed intensive care unit.  Even as cases had begun to plateau, morale is bleak. 

“Everyone is on edge, it’s a feeling of constantly bracing ourselves for things to get worse. And the patients at the ICU are so sick for so long,” she says with a slight sigh. It’s late January, and the area is averaging more than 40,000 cases per week. The hospital’s ICU is 33 percent past maximum capacity. “They get worse, and they don’t bounce back like we usually see. We’re used to having the skills we can use to make most people better. We know we’re doing everything we can, but it takes a psychological toll when we can’t heal these people.”