California Coronavirus Update: Stay-At-Home Order Extended Until Mid-January; L.A. Hospitals At Breaking Point, State Bracing For Post-Holiday Surge

Southern California will continue in the regional stay-at-home order “until the ICU projections are above or equal to 15%,” said the state’s Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly today.

Currently, as hospitals are diverting care and patients are placed in hallways and elsewhere, L.A. County and the rest of Southern California is at 0% ICU capacity.

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First announced by Governor Gavin Newsom back in early December as the fallout from Thanksgiving became more and more apparent, the set to expire semi-lockdown of Southern California will now continue until January 16, at the very least.

During the next three weeks, the state will take a new look at the decision and the relevant virus data daily over the next few weeks to determine if restrictions need to be extended yet again, Ghaly made clear Tuesday. If the numbers turn around, the stay-at-home order could be lifted early — not that the near future looks bright right now.

Widely anticipated with rising COVID cases and deaths crippling the Golden State’s healthcare system, the latest extension of Gov. Newsom’s band-aid measure may turn out to be a tragic case of too little, too late. Even as public health officials in L.A. County jumped ahead of the state on December 27 and extended the region’s own stay-at-home order indefinitely, hospitals in the area are down to zero ICU beds and running out of space and staff.

“We brace to see what levels of transmissions we expect to see coming out of these celebrations,” the HHS chief wearily noted of an expected post-Christmas surge coming in the next few weeks in this “difficult time.” Dr. Ghaly pushed forward to New Year’s Eve too, and tried over and over to warn Californians to resist the desire to see 2021 in with traditional celebrations. “Things that were a month ago or two months ago a low-risk activity today are really high risks because of the level of Covid that’s circulating in our communities,” he bluntly said.

“Over 95% of LA’s hospitals have been in diversion over the past 24 hours,” the CHHS Secretary asserted in what is likely his last briefing of 2020. “All of those trends tell me …that we need to continue to work to prepare for the next holiday surge of cases into the early part of next year,” he went on to say. “And that likely projections that in the middle of January we will see a significant higher number of cases than we have today of individuals with Covid who need hospital-level care.”

“Hospitals running out of staff, having to use rooms that they usually don’t use,” Dr. Ghaly stated Tuesday of the situation in L.A and the southern part of the state. “Pre-op beds are being used to serve Covid patients,” he added, going on to raise the specter of looming “rationing of certain supplies and staff, and not every patient gets the level of attention we normally hope they would” in the current surge.

“You can usually stretch most rubber bands pretty far as we are stretching our hospitals pretty far,” the state’s leading medical officer declared. “Some hospitals are going to have to resort to crisis care.”

With L.A. sadly serving as the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis nationally, California reported 31,245 new cases today and 242 new deaths. That’s a 1.4% and 1% increase relatively from Monday, that adds up to a total of 2.9 million confirmed cases and just under 25,000 deaths in America’s most populous state. Though those high metrics are shocking, the state actually has seen Covid cases dipping a bit over the last week.

As vaccines are increasingly distributed across the Golden State, California also saw 245,955 tests conducted today. Marked by long lines at most testing centers and clinics, that new number is a 0.8% uptick from prior day totals and sees 32.4 million tests given in a state of around 38 million citizens.

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