California’s Governor Newsom warns of ‘drastic action’ as state’s hospitals near capacity

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Two weeks ago Gov. Newsom abruptly announced that nearly everyone in the state of California was living in a “purple tier” county, meaning the virus was spreading quickly and additional restrictions would resume on “non-essential” businesses. Then a few days later the Governor put in place a 10 pm curfew for all of the counties in the purple tier, which again means nearly all of them at this point. Today the news got worse as Newsom warned “drastic action” could be coming within days in the form of a new stay-at-home order.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a Monday press conference the state is considering a new stay-at-home order in purple-tier counties if cases continue to surge.

The state is experiencing the highest rate of increase in COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, and in one to two weeks, new cases resulting from Thanksgiving gatherings are expected to pop up and accelerate the surge.

“If these trends continue, we’re going to have to take much more dramatic, arguably drastic action,” Newsom said.

With 51 of the state’s 58 counties in the most restrictive tier, 99% of the population could fall under a lockdown.

The reason for this potential action is the surge in COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations throughout the state. Recent projections suggest hospitals could be overwhelmed by Christmas unless the trend changes quickly:

The state saw a new daily high for coronavirus cases, reaching 14,034 and an overall total of 1,212,968. An additional 20 deaths were reported for a total of 14,141.

As of Monday, 8,578 people are in California hospitals with COVID-19. Overall, 75% of intensive care unit beds are occupied — and without intervention could reach 112% by Dec. 24, according to projections shared by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday…

Current case numbers are likely delayed because some health offices were closed on Thanksgiving. The number of reported cases could rise in the next few days, and the impact of holiday gatherings on infections may not be seen for weeks.

Newsom tweeted out a chart showing a breakdown of projections for different regions of the state. As you can see, most areas are expected to exceed local ICU capacity in a matter of weeks.

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This gets us back to the real justification for the initial shutdowns back in the spring, i.e. we had to bend the curve to avoid overwhelming the health system. We did that once and now we’re probably going to have to do it again.

The good news is that a lot more of the people who are hospitalized are going to survive because treatment is better now than it was in the spring. But that still depends on people getting treatment. If we wind up at 134% of capacity and people are stuck in isolation wards without proper equipment some of them may not make it. And that’s not to mention that the health providers trying to deal with the overflow will be exhausted by the effort.

Here’s a bit of Newsom’s speech about the “red flags” the state was seeing:

Newsom also announced some new money and a tax deferral for small businesses that are taking a hit because of the curfew and restrictions. Here’s a sample of what he said about that today:



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