A 37-year-old man who allegedly used an oxygen tank to beat to death a fellow Covid patient in his California hospital bed last week has been charged with murder and hate crime.
Jesse Martinez became upset when the 82-year-old man sharing his hospital room started praying, according to Los Angeles police.
Mr Martinez then allegedly grabbed an oxygen tank and bludgeoned the elderly patient.
The victim died the following day.
The pair, who police say did not know each other, were receiving treatment for coronavirus in a two-person room in Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster in southern California.
“The suspect became upset when the victim started to pray. He then struck the victim with an oxygen tank,” a statement from Los Angeles police said.
“The suspect, 37-year-old Jesse Martinez, was arrested and charged with murder, a hate crime enhancement and elder abuse,” a statement read.
California hospitals are struggling to cope after the state recorded one million new infections in just six weeks. More than two million cases have now been confirmed in California since the pandemic began.
Hospitals are facing staff shortages and the state has put out an appeal for extra 3,000 medical workers from as far afield as Australia and Taiwan.
On Monday California’s health secretary Dr Mark Ghaly said entire areas may run out of room even in their makeshift additional treatment centres “by the end of the month and early in January”.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has issued a stay-at-home order and many non-essential businesses are closed.
On Wednesday the US reported 228,131 new cases of Covid-19 and 3,359 new deaths.