California Covid-19 Update: Statewide Available ICU Capacity Falls To 0% On Christmas Day

Tom Tapp
·3 min read

In Covid-19 ravaged California on Christmas Day, remaining ICU capacity for the first time fell to zero across the entire state.

Some counties, like Los Angeles and Orange County have been at 0% for over a week, but the state at large has recently floated between 1 and 3%.

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The drop is likely due to less-populated counties in the state, which had previously seen much better numbers, finally dipping.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said the state had 2.5% ICU capacity on Monday. Wednesday, he reported it had fallen to 1.1%. On Christmas, one day after it became the first state 2 millionth infection, available capacity officially dropped to 0% in California.

There are still beds available in the state because, as health officials have explained, the official omits NICU availability — for kids — and other beds not appropriate for the majority of the state’s adults.

Newsom has repeatedly stressed that 0% is the just bottom of hospitals’ traditional ICU network. He said again this week that about another 20% “surge capacity” can — and has — been added through bringing in federal workers, breaking the normal nurse-to-patient ratio and sourcing more ICU nurses — such as those recently retired — from the state’s population.

Still, scenes of patients lined up on stretchers outside of emergency rooms are beginning to emerge. They are frighteningly similar to images seen earlier in the pandemic in New York and in hard-hit countries like Italy.

On Friday, director James Gunn tweeted about the heartbreaking trouble a friend’s family had finding treatment at a hospital because of Covid-related overcrowding. “My friend’s father had cancer surgery a week ago,” wrote Gunn. “Two days later he had complications. He went back to the hospital but he couldn’t get a bed because of all the Covid patients…”

One bizarre side note in Sunday’s numbers: The state’s Covid-19 dashboard displayed 0 new hospitalizations due to the pandemic. The daily new infections number — 39,144 — was there, as was the still sky-high death tally at 312. That’s the fourth-highest number of lives lost since the beginning of the pandemic.

After reaching the state’s test positivity rate reached 13.3% about a week ago, that daily number has come down over the past week, to 12.6% on Thursday and 12.4% on Friday.

The L.A. Public Health Department announced it would not release comprehensive numbers on Friday due to “an outage with Spectrum Service in the Los Angeles area.” It did report that there were 6,708 people with Covid hospitalized countywide. A has been the case recently, 20% of them are in the ICU. It is unclear what impact the outage may have had state numbers.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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