California records half a million Covid cases in two weeks | US news

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California has recorded a half-million coronavirus cases in the past two weeks, overwhelming emergency rooms across the state.

The state could be facing a once-unthinkable scenario of nearly 100,000 hospitalizations within a month, the governor Gavin Newsom said Monday.

Newsom, himself quarantined for the second time in two months, said a state projection model shows previously unfathomable hospitalization numbers. He is likely to extend his stay-at-home order for much of the state next week.

Dr Mark Ghaly, California’s health secretary, said it is feared entire areas of the state may run out of room even in their makeshift “surge” capacity units “by the end of the month and early in January”.

In response, the state is updating its planning guide for how hospitals would ration care if people cannot receive the treatment they need, Ghaly said. “Our goal is to make sure those plans are in place, but work hard to make sure no one has to put them into place anywhere in California,” he said.

A New York Times analysis lists three California metro regions – Sonora, Inland Empire and El Centro – in the top 10 of metro areas with the largest number of new cases in the past two weeks. The Fresno metro area tops the regions where cases are rising fastest, according to the analysis.

Hospital staff at El Centro Regional Medical Center say conditions are desperate, even worse than during a summer surge that caught the attention of the governor. “We don’t have space for anybody. We’ve been holding patients for days because we can’t get them transferred, can’t get beds for them,“ said Dr Alexis Lenz, an emergency room physician at the medical center in Imperial county, home to 180,000 people.

Of the 175 patients at the hospital on Monday, 131 had Covid-19. The facility licensed for 161 beds has erected a 50-bed tent in its parking lot, and was converting three operating rooms to virus care.

Across the state, hospitals are seeing the worst spike in cases and hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic. All of southern California and the 12-county San Joaquin Valley to the north have been out of regular ICU capacity for days.

California is averaging almost 44,000 newly confirmed cases a day and has recorded 525,000 in the last two weeks. An estimated 12% of those who test positive end up in the hospital. That means 63,000 hospitalizations from the last 14 days of cases. The current figure is 17,190.

Los Angeles is among the hardest hit areas of the state. Its hospitals are in the contingency stage, said LA county health director Dr Christina Ghaly, which means shifting around staff and equipment.

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti said experts have drawn “a straight line” between the current spikes in cases and Thanksgiving gatherings and warned people to stay home in the coming weeks. “If you gather for the holidays, our hospitals will be overrun,” Garcetti said. “This is not a good sign, and it’s a recipe for a Christmas and New Year’s surge.”

Newsom gave Monday’s briefing from his home as he began a 10-day quarantine Sunday for the second time in two months after a staff member tested positive for the virus. The governor was tested and his result came back negative.

In a rare bright note, Newsom said federal relief aid and more vaccines are both on the way. The first 110,000 doses of the newly approved Moderna vaccine arrived in the state a week after California hospitals administered the first 70,258 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

The explosion of cases in the last six weeks has California’s death toll climbing. Another 83 fatalities reported Sunday raised the total to 22,676, though Newsom cautioned the daily figure was likely too low because of a normal weekend reporting lag.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: California records half a million Covid cases in two weeks | US news

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