Stay-at-home orders extended in California as Covid cases surge


Stay-at-home orders were extended for two large parts of California on Tuesday as hospitals have been severely strained by surging Covid-19 cases, health officials said.

“We certainly know that Southern California hospitals are in crisis, and some have begun to implement parts of crisis care,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, said in a video briefing.

No facility has notified the state that they are fully in crisis care yet, but some in Southern California have made decisions that would be a part of that, he said, including decisions about how to accept ambulances and staffing.

One hospital in Los Angeles turned its chapel into an overflow unit. Ghaly said there have been much longer than normal waits in some emergency departments, and hospitals are using post- and pre-operation beds to care for Covid-19 and other patients, among other steps.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday warned that travel during the last holiday week made it all but inevitable that the state would see a “surge on top of a surge” in cases.

Most of the state is under regional stay-at-home orders that have required some businesses like bars, wineries and hair salons to close and reduced capacity in others — the requirements kick in once a region’s ICU capacity falls below 15 percent.

Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley remained at zero percent ICU availability Tuesday, which doesn’t mean there are no beds but that hospitals have had to go to surge capacity. But the orders were extended into 2021 and will remain in place until projections show the ICU threshold is reached.

Los Angeles County health officials on Tuesday reported 227 additional Covid-19 deaths and said that hospitalizations passed 7,000 for the first time in the pandemic.

“Suffering followed by more suffering continues as too many residents and businesses behave as if we are not living in the most dangerous time of the most devastating pandemic,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, county health director, said in a statement.

She pleaded with residents to cancel New Year’s parties, saying “we are each other’s keepers.”

A clinician cares for a COVID-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, Calif. on Dec. 23, 2020.Mario Tama / Getty Images

Statewide, there were more than 31,200 Covid-19 cases reported Tuesday and the positivity rate is averaging around 12 percent, according to the state health department. It is higher in Los Angeles County, at more than 16 percent.

California has had more than 2.1 million people with Covid-19 , and 24,500 people have died, the state health department said.

Northern California is the only region not under a regional stay-at-home order. Newsom said Monday that one of the biggest areas of concern are Southern California and the Los Angeles area.

The governor said that 96 percent of Los Angeles County hospitals were “under diversion: and can’t accept ambulances and must divert them elsewhere, on Saturday. Even in the pandemic, before the current surge in Covid-19 cases that number was 33 percent, he said.

Image: Phil helselPhil Helsel

Phil Helsel is a reporter for NBC News.

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