(KYMA, KECY/NBC) - Oxygen supplies are at critical lows in COVID-19 hot spots around the country.
Hospital administrators in Arizona and California are reporting oxygen use up to four times the pre-COVID rate.
It's a resource scarcity not originally anticipated by medical staff, with one doctor telling reporters that lack of oxygen wasn't even something his staff thought they needed to worry about.
In some cases, oxygen is running out entirely--sending staff to scramble for resources.
"We had COVID people admitted just sitting in triage chairs didn't even have a bed for them, and they're like 'hey this is our last oxygen tank, like portable oxygen' and so I was like that was not something that was on my radar either in my hospital and so we were able to scramble and find a whole bunch more but you know within our system,” said Dr. Brandon Lawrence, West Valley ER Physician.
On the streets of Los Angeles, paramedics are limited in which patients can even receive oxygen after a new order by the LA County Emergency Medical Services Agency.
Arizona's Banner Healthcare System, which cares for many of the state's COVID patients, says their oxygen use is up 30-percent from last year.
And Cobre Valley Medical Center says they're using up to four times the amount of oxygen they normally do.
And these are large hospital networks.
The biggest concern comes for smaller hospitals that may run out completely and struggle to replenish resources.
Several doctors say they are terrified that soon they will have to ration care, essentially, deciding who gets life-saving care, and who does not.