The entire state of California is expected to fall under new home orders until the end of December due to decreasing capacity in intensive care units as part of the ongoing battle against the novel coronavirus.
An increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in California and across the U.S. is expected to worsen in the weeks following the Thanksgiving holiday. California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday encouraged Californians to follow another home visit order as they await access to a COVID-19 vaccine, which could begin distribution before the end of the year if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves an emergency vaccine by mid-December.
Meanwhile, according to Newsom, each of the state’s five regions – Northern California, Greater Sacramento, Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California – are expected to begin reporting ICU capacity below 15 percent, the threshold at which the new order to stay at home will be triggered, shortly.
“ICU capacity in all of these regions will fall below 15 percent of total capacity by the end of this month, based on our current forecasts,” Newsom said during a press conference on Thursday. No region is yet qualifying for the stay-at-home order, but the Bay Area region could fall below this 15 percent threshold by mid or late this month, Newsom said. The other four regions could reach that mark within a week or as early as the next few days, he said.
Once the new “stay-at-home” order is triggered, it will remain in effect for at least three weeks, Newsom said. Business areas that will need to be temporarily closed include bars, wineries, personal services, hair salons and barber stores. Restaurants will be allowed to remain open for deliveries and pickups, and retail stores may remain open as long as they meet the capacity limits of 20 percent of customers, the governor said. Critical infrastructure and schools that have been granted an exemption to open can also remain open, he added.
California was the first state to announce a “stay-at-home” order in mid-March in response to the pandemic. Although the state seemed to flatten the virus’s spread curve by the end of the summer, the daily new infections increased sharply in recent weeks. Health experts have predicted that the U.S. is heading for the worst with the virus, and warned that its rapid spread could overwhelm hospitals already under stress due to the resurgence of winter respiratory disease.
More than 1.2 million people in California tested positive for the virus overall, and more than 19,000 people had died by December 2, according to the states. Newsom said on Thursday that the seven-day average of new infections in California each day was over 15,000, the highest reported figure since the pandemic began. The number of hospitalizations has increased by 86 percent in the last two weeks, and ICU admissions have also increased by 67 percent over the same period, according to the governor.
As Newsom reviewed the numbers of cases, hospital admissions and deaths, a slide appeared on the screen next to him, saying, “If we don’t act now, the California hospital system will be overwhelmed and our death rate will continue to rise.
Newsom said California was “putting an emergency brake on the hospital system” with its new home-stay policy.
“This is not a permanent state. This is what many had predicted, what we had predicted: the final rise of this pandemic,” Newsom said, “We don’t expect to have to do this again, but we really all need to take a step forward. We have to approach this moment head-on, and we have to do everything we can to stem the tide, bend the curve and give ourselves the time we need by bending that curve to get those vaccines into the hands of every Californian in the state.
Washington Newsday turned to Newsom’s office for further comments but did not receive a response in time for publication.