“I want to be clear: Our hospitals are under siege and there is no end in sight,” Los Angeles County Director of Health Services Dr. Christina Ghaly said Wednesday. “Unless we remain more vigilant and more diligent through the holidays and beyond, we will not be able to stop the surge.”
That surge reached new heights on Wednesday as Los Angeles County reported yet another record number of new cases and deaths. The county reported 138 new coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday, by far the highest daily number of fatalities reported by the county at any point during the pandemic. It also reported 21,411 new cases. Although about 7,000 of those cases are the result of a reporting backlog, but even without them, Wednesday’s total still surpasses the previous daily cases record of 13,050 set on December 8. A total of 4,656 people are hospitalized, with an increase of about 200 since Tuesday.
Late Monday, Southern California fell to an all-time low of just 1.7% of ICU bed capacity left. By Tuesday night, availability had fallen to just 0.5%. On Wednesday, available ICU beds in L.A-adjacent Orange County had fallen to 0%. In San Diego, some 911 patients were waiting five to seven hours in an ambulance after arrival at the emergency room.
Also on Wednesday, California reported by far the highest number of daily new infections any U.S. state has ever seen. California’s Covid-19 dashboard tallied 53,711 new cases over the previous 24-hour period. Usually a big jump in one day can be attributed to a backlog of cases from the weekend, and the extra 7,000 in L.A. County surely contributed, but given the daily numbers were also high on Monday and Tuesday the jump does not seem an anomaly.
Ghaly said the new spike is the result of gatherings over Thanksgiving. “It does not seem that enough people heard the plea to stay home and not gather.” As a result, she said, “We will have an increase in deaths in the weeks to come.”
She then pleaded: “Please, let’s not repeat the same mistake as we move into our next holiday season. I urge everyone to hear this: If you don’t do everything possible to minimize spread, then you are continuing the spread.”
Ghaly went on to drop some startling statistics, including that one in every 80 people in L.A. County is infected. California’s top health official said Tuesday that 40% of those infected at any one time are asymptomatic. The R Effective — or the rate at which each infected person spreads the virus to another — is now 1.2, said Ghaly. That’s close to an all-time high. The potential for massive spread over the winter holidays was clear.
She said county hospitals are seeing 600 new Covid patients every day. That number, according to Ghaly, “Could be between 700 and 1350 by the end of December.” At that point, she revealed, “the number of patients that need ICU care in the county could exceed the current 2500 ICU beds by 1000 or more.”
“We are off the grid in terms of our previous projections,” said Ghaly.
City News Service contributed to this report.
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