Governor Gavin Newsom announced Monday that California may have to take “drastic action” if COVID-19 rates and ICU cases continue to rise in the next few weeks.
During the press conference, Gov. Newsom noted that, in the past few weeks, COVID-19 hospitalizations have jumped up statewide by 89%, with ICU cases also going up 67%. Newsom also noted that, on Sunday alone, California broke a new one-day record of new COVID-19 hospitalizations with nearly 7,500 Californians seeking medical attention for the virus. California Director of Health and Human Services (CHHS) Dr. Mark Ghaly, who also spoke during the conference, noted that many California hospitals have stalled elective procedures as a result of the growing number of severe cases statewide.
In addition, California reported a 6.2% positivity rate on tests in the last two weeks, with over 14,000 cases being reported on Monday alone. The growing figures all came after the state pulled, in Governor Newsom’s words, the ’emergency brake’ in the state’s tier system by increasing lockdowns and restrictions across the state.
Governor Newsom specifically highlighted ICU cases in California, noting that all regions are expected to be overwhelmed and outgrow the number of available beds in the coming weeks.
“Red flags are flying,” said Newsom on Monday. “This is in the absence of making better decisions. This is a chart that says if we just sit back and we are bystanders at this moment and we don’t subsequently improve upon our existing efforts, this is what we project might occur. And so I want folks to know that we intend to bend this proverbial curve and impact these statistics favorably.”
In a Twitter post sent out around the time of the conference, Newsom gave hard figures and projections for ICU beds in California, noting that “This is the tipping point. CA has worked hard to prepare for a surge—but we can’t sustain the record high cases we’re seeing. Current projections show CA will run out of current ICU beds before Christmas Eve. Please stay safe & stay home as much as you can for next few weeks.”
This is the tipping point.
CA has worked hard to prepare for a surge—but we can’t sustain the record high cases we’re seeing.
Current projections show CA will run out of current ICU beds before Christmas Eve.
Please stay safe & stay home as much as you can for next few weeks. pic.twitter.com/5NJYzHokhE
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) November 30, 2020
According to the CHHS figures, Southern California is expected to run out of ICU beds just before Christmas, with Northern California having only about a weeks and the Bay Area having until after New Year’s should the current COVID-19 trends in California continue. Dr. Ghaly noted that the ICU situation would be a large part in instilling action for all Californians to follow state lockdown measures.
“We are looking at intensive care capacity as the trigger for further action,” added Dr. Ghaly on Monday during the conference.
Thanksgiving COVID-19 surge worries, possible ‘drastic action’ in future
Both Newsom and Dr. Ghaly also warned about a post-Thanksgiving surge due to people traveling for Thanksgiving spreading COVID-19 by having gatherings and moving across long distances.
“We anticipate, given Thanksgiving gatherings, that we will see another surge in cases,” said Newsom.
National Institute of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Anothony Fauci gave a similar warning on Sunday during a ‘Meet the Press’ interview, noting that “We expect unfortunately, as we go into the next couple of weeks into December, that we might see a surge superimposed on top of the surge that we’re already in.”
The Governor also noted that drastic action could be taken soon if the figures continue to climb.
“If these trends continue we’re going to have to take much more dramatic, arguably drastic action. If these trends continue, the potential for a stay-at-home order for those areas in the Purple tier are more in line with the stay-at-home order that folks were familiar with at the beginning of the year.”
Dr. Ghaly also added that “Everything is on the table for restrictions.”
Experts noted that California and it’s counties, through having more and more drastic lockdown orders, may go even farther than people would think.
“Hawaii has a 14-day quarantine, New York has a 14-day quarantine, and California has a 14-day quarantine,” explained travel analyst Martin Meyer, who has been specifically tracking holiday movements by people during COVID-19, to the Globe. “And yet we still saw a lot of travel. By air, it was the most since March. If a surge happens, who knows how much more they can limit people. There are lots of ways we’ve seen other countries do it, including border shutdowns within the country. Honestly, it will probably mean even more stay at home restrictions post-Christmas, but we’ve seen all sorts of reactions to growing cases.
“Running out of ICU beds, regardless of what you think about the pandemic, is a worrying sign nonetheless, and if that happens, movement restriction is a top tactic people use to stop any spread.”
Ending on a positive note during the conference, Newsom confirmed that the first vaccines will be coming to California this week.
“We are expecting 327,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine in the next few weeks. That’s California’s portion of the first wave of the vaccine.”
California health officials are to have another COVID-19 update later in the week, where more restrictions may be announced dependent on new COVID-19 figures.