Officials are warning that California hospitals are close to reaching their breaking point as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations skyrocket to record daily highs  – with 27 million residents in two major regions of the state receiving text alerts telling them to stay home. 

Governor Gavin Newsom is now bringing in hundreds of hospital staff from outside the state and preparing to re-start emergency hospitals that were created but barely used when the coronavirus surged last spring to cope with the new surge. 

The seven-day rolling average for new cases in the county’s most populous state has doubled over the past two weeks to 23,000 a day. During the summer surge, average infections in California peaked at 10,000 per day. 

Meanwhile, deaths – currently at an average of 119 per day – are now nearing the seven-day rolling average that was recorded during the peak summer surge. 

California’s hospitalizations are now at record levels with more than 10,900 patients currently being treated for COVID-19.

The state has seen a roughly 70 percent increase in ICU admissions in just two weeks, leaving just 1,700 of the state’s 7,800 ICU beds available. 

The seven-day rolling average for new cases in the county’s most populous state has doubled over the past two weeks to 23,000 a day. During the summer surge, average infections in California peaked at 10,000 per day

Deaths – currently at an average of 119 per day – are now nearing the seven-day rolling average that was recorded during the peak summer surge 

California officials have estimated that about 12 percent of people who test positive will end up going to the hospital two to three weeks later. At the current rate, that means 2,640 hospitalizations from each day’s new case total. 

Hospitals in Fresno, Madera, and Kings counties in the San Joaquin Valley region of the state already have run out of official ICU space, state public health officials reported. Several hospitals in Los Angeles County and others in San Diego and Imperial counties are among those close to running out of ICU beds.  

In response, California has requested nearly 600 health care workers to help in ICUs through a contracting agency and the federal government. It’s starting a two-day program to train registered nurses to care for ICU patients and setting up links for doctors to consult remotely on ICU patients. Some hospitals are postponing elective surgeries to free up staff and beds. 

Similar concerns about patient overload and staffing shortages faded during the initial months of the pandemic, leaving most of the state’s auxiliary surge hospitals barely used. 

Now, capacity is dwindling even before the impact of infections spread by those who ignored entreaties to stay home for Thanksgiving.  

Despite the record case and hospitalization numbers, the state’s top public health officer Dr Mark Ghaly doesn’t believe the state has reached a peak in the virus surge that began in October. 

‘The fact is that transmission is now so widespread across our state that most all non-essential activities create a serious risk for transmission,’ Ghaly said.  

The seven-day rolling average for new cases in the county’s most populous state has doubled over the past two weeks to 23,000 a day. Pictured above are residents at a COVID-19 testing center at the San Fernando regional park in Los Angeles County yesterday

Health care professionals get temperature checks upon arrival at an urgent care facility in Los Angeles on Monday. California’s hospitalizations are now at record levels with more than 10,900 patients currently being treated for COVID-19

Newsom recently imposed an overnight curfew, a ban on nonessential travel and issued stay-home orders in regions where open ICU beds have dipped below 15 percent. 

He has separated the state into five regions and will use the ICU capacity as a trigger for widespread closures.

That trigger was met last weekend in two regions and five Bay Area counties that adopted the measures as a precaution, putting the vast majority of the state’s residents under stay-at-home-orders. 

Authorities yesterday sent a text alert to the 27 million residents in the two major regions currently under stay-at-home orders – Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley – asking them to stay home except for essential activities

Authorities yesterday sent a text alert to the 27 million residents in the two major regions currently under stay-at-home orders – Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley – asking them to stay home except for essential activities.   

The blast – which also urged people to wear masks and physically distance – was sent to the 11-county Southern California region and 12-county San Joaquin Valley region by California’s Office of Emergency Services. 

Those regions will be eligible to emerge from the order on December 28 if ICU capacity projections for the following month are above or equal to that threshold, emergency services office said.  

The move to shut down parts of the state has been decried by many small business owners and residents weary of the pandemic.

Nineteen restaurants in Kern County, which is in the locked down San Joaquin Valley region and has an ICU capacity of 5.6 percent, are filing a lawsuit against Newsom over the latest restrictions. 

The restaurants, which have been forced to only offer takeout, are arguing that the new restrictions are unconstitutional. 

Officials are now painting a dire picture of overwhelmed hospitals and exhausted health workers as cases continue to surge. 

Newsom recently imposed an overnight curfew, a ban on nonessential travel and issued stay-home orders in regions where open ICU beds have dipped below 15 percent. He has separated the state into five regions and will use the ICU capacity as a trigger for widespread closures

Governor Gavin Newsom is now bringing in hundreds of hospital staff from outside the state and preparing to re-start emergency hospitals that were created but barely used when the coronavirus surged last spring to cope with the new surge. Pictured is the 400-bed emergency field hospital at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. It was set up in April (above) but is among those being reactivated 

They point to a spike in health care workers themselves becoming infected and a dearth of traveling nurses who are busy in other states dealing with their own unprecedented spikes.  

When specially trained critical care nurses become overwhelmed, hospitals will likely first draft post-surgery nurses to fill the void. And if they too are swamped, hospitals will shift to a team approach, where a critical care nurse oversees others with less training who can still perform many duties.

That would require waiving strict nurse-to-patient ratios that are uniquely written into law in California, something the California Nurses Association argues would inevitably endanger patients’ care.

Riverside University Health System Medical Center, for instance, has opened an ICU in a former storage room, chief executive Jennifer Cruikshank told Riverside County supervisors on Tuesday. An ICU nurse who typically cares for two patients is now taking care of three, she said, and doctors and housekeepers are taking extra shifts. 

In another attempt to help battle the current surge, the state is activating the first two of 11 alternative care sites that have a total capacity of 1,862 beds.  

A site in hard-hit Imperial County, on the border with Mexico, already has 19 of its 25 available beds in use, though it can expand to handle 115 patients.

The second site is at the former home of the Sacramento Kings professional basketball team. The goal is to have the first 20 beds ready by Wednesday in a practice gymnasium, then prepare another 224 beds in the main arena – some in luxury suites where well-heeled fans once watched games.

It will be staffed this time with California Medical Assistance Teams, which usually respond to disasters like wildfires, and members of Newsom’s California Health Corps – paid volunteers who are often recently retired medical professionals. 

The state also is seeking workers from contract medical providers and the federal government.   



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