State officials are expected to extend the strictest stay-at-home orders in central and Southern California as hospitals there are quickly running out of intensive care unit beds for coronavirus patients ahead of the presumed post-holiday surge.
The situation is already dire, and the worst is expected to come in the next few weeks after Christmas and New Year’s travelers return home. California hit 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Christmas Eve, becoming the first state to reach the grim milestone.
The stay-at-home orders for the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California are set to expire Monday — they were first imposed three weeks ago — but Gov. Gavin Newsom has signaled they would not be allowed to lapse. State officials said Sunday afternoon the orders were likely to be extended but did not make a definitive ruling.
Health inspectors and authorities stepped up enforcement at restaurants and shopping malls over the post-Christmas weekend in an attempt to curb the surge.
Statewide, officials on Sunday reported that California has had 2,122,806 confirmed cases and more than 24,000 deaths. The figures are from Saturday, the most recent data available. Most of the state is under stay-at-home orders.
The state’s total confirmed cases rose by more than 50,000 — an increase of 2.4% — over the previous day, data shows. Some of the cases reflect two days of data from Los Angeles County, which had an internet service interruption Friday and caused delays in reporting.
There were 237 additional deaths reported to the state, a figure believed to be an undercount because of LA County’s delayed reporting.
The stay-at-home orders require regions to have ICU capacity projections to be above or equal to 15%.
Northern California’s ICU capacity projections are at 28.3%, while the Southern California and San Joaquin Valley projections are 0%. The Greater Sacramento region stands at 17.8% and the Bay Area is at 11.1%, state figures show.
“It is likely that the Regional Stay at Home Order will extend for many regions in California,” officials said in a news release Sunday.
In some counties in the San Joaquin Valley, state data shows there aren’t any ICU beds left. In others, only a handful remain. The crisis is straining the state’s medical system well beyond its normal capacity, prompting hospitals to treat patients in tents, offices and auditoriums.
In Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous, county estimates show that about 1 in 95 people are contagious with the virus. Officials estimate one person dies every 10 minutes from COVID-19 in the county.