(CN) — A record-breaking spike of Covid-19 cases has pushed California to over 2 million confirmed infections ahead of the Christmas holiday and left fewer than 1% of the state’s ICU beds available for new patients.
And with 32,000 new cases reported Wednesday, hospitals will continue to be inundated with new patients into the new year at alarming rates.
Over 3,800 Californians with Covid-19 lay in ICU beds across the state, nearly double the number just three weeks ago. That will continue to rise as the explosion of new Covid-19 positive cases plows into the record books every day.
California experienced its second deadliest day Wednesday with 361 Covid deaths. In the last 24 hours, California reported nearly 40,000 new cases and according to a tally by the Los Angeles Times, the Golden State has over 2 million cases. The California Office of Emergency Management reports 1.96 million cases, but that data reports on the previous day’s totals.
It took California several months to reach 1 million confirmed cases, but in the last month the state has weathered a juggernaut of a virus that has pushed the its hospital system to a breaking point. In early December, roughly 8,500 people with Covid-19 had been hospitalized. That figure now stands at over 18,800, according to health officials.
Governor Gavin Newsom described the perilous situation the state could find itself in next year if people continue to flout health advisories over Christmas and New Year’s.
“It’s incumbent upon us. At peril, we’ll be at a surge, on top of a surge where we’re at today on top of yet again another surge in the middle and latter part of January and February,” Newsom said during a briefing.
That same fear ripples through Los Angeles County, the most populous part of the state, where 6,155 people are hospitalized.
“Anyone who is willing to be honest with the facts and the timeline of the rising case counts and the reality that is bombarding our hospitals must accept that our collective behaviors as a community of Los Angeles County in the days around Thanksgiving directly led to our rising rate of hospitalization and our rising rate of death,” said LA County Health Director Dr. Christina Ghaly.
Ambulances wait hours to offload patients and many are being sent to other hospitals due the overcrowding wrought by the virus.
Most hospitals report that half their patients in the ICU are sick with Covid-19.
“Two thirds of these patients are suffocating due to the inflammation that’s in their lungs that’s caused by the virus. They’re suffocating to the point where they can no longer breathe on their own and they have to have someone put a tube down their throat in order to oxygenate their organs,” said Ghaly. “Many of these people will not live to see 2021.”
The county also broke its daily record for new cases over a one-day period with over 16,500 confirmed infections, a staggering spike that continues to climb. The 7-day average is now 16% and health officials say the trend will likely push the hospitalizations to over 7,500 in the next several days. And in the last 24 hours, 145 Angelenos died of Covid-related complications — the highest daily death toll since the start of the pandemic.
In all, LA County has seen over 663,000 Covid cases and more than 9,000 deaths.
Ghaly emphasized LA County could have avoided its current surge and any new spikes in hospitalizations and deaths if more people listen to the health guidelines. She noted health care workers she’s spoken to are frustrated and outraged that more people are not taking the virus seriously.
“Images of crowded, outdoor malls and jam-packed parking lots, of people sitting to eat with other people, people taking walks without masks, playgrounds with kids and parents who don’t have their masks on, or who are sipping coffee with their masks off with other people close by” are just some of the examples Ghaly listed.
A Christmas carol protest of “the mask Gestapo” organized by actor Kirk Cameron — self-proclaimed Christian and pro-life advocate — in nearby Ventura County, where people sang without masks and stood shoulder to shoulder Tuesday evening, drew the ire of LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer.
“I’m at a loss of words at this point,” said Ferrer. “I don’t really understand it. It’s very irresponsible and very dangerous and it’s unnecessary. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. These are just extraordinary times and we need to all help each other through these times.”