OAKLAND – Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday he was considering ordering California counties to stay home to curb an explosion of coronavirus cases that threatens to overwhelm hospitals by Christmas.
Newsom said it could impose the additional restrictions within the next few weeks. He suggested that the state could target the orders to areas where hospitals are most at risk of being overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients.
“We’re trying to be much more specific, surgical, and prescriptive when it comes to researching effectiveness and where the data is leading us to make these determinations sector by sector,” said Newsom.
The background: California has controlled the spread of Covid-19 better than most states – ranked 39th out of 50 per capita – but Newsom sounded the alarm on Monday about the unprecedented pace of the spread of new infections.
This weekend, the state moved six more counties to the most restrictive purple level in the state, which now affects 99 percent of residents.
California currently bans restaurants, gyms, and church services in 51 of 58 counties, among others. If Newsom introduced limits similar to those in spring, most outdoor business activities would be banned and people would have to stay at home except for essential services.
Los Angeles County already issued a home stay order this week.
The data: California’s 7-day average of new daily cases has hit 14,600 – more than the peak of the summer surge. Newsom emphasized the potential strain on hospitals across the state and that additional restrictions may be needed to ensure enough beds are available.
State health officials predict that hospital stays could double or triple in just one month without additional intervention or behavior, and intensive care units could exceed capacity. Nationwide, the ICU approvals could reach 112 percent of capacity by December 24th.
“What we are currently concerned about is the intensive care units specifically,” said Mark Ghaly, secretary for the Agency for Health and Human Services, citing the capacity of the intensive care unit as the “main trigger” for further restrictions and an order to stay at home.
About 12 percent of all Covid-19 cases require hospitalization, and about 10 to 30 percent of those hospitalizations are admitted to the intensive care unit.
“That is the state of the country in relation to the red flags that fly. No yellow flags, ”Newsom said.
About vaccines: Newsom stated that California is expected to receive 327,000 doses of the vaccine in mid-December, with the second doses expected to follow within another three weeks.
With this initial tranche nowhere near enough to cover enough health care workers at the top of the queue, the group that is developing the guidelines for the equitable distribution of the virus is expected to release its report this week for the first phase of distribution .
The outlook: Newsom and Ghaly said they are in constant contact with health officials and expect to make the decision on additional restrictions in the coming days. Ghaly suggested that the state could limit length of stay based on the conditions they see on the ground.