California Shatters One-Day Record for Covid Deaths

FILE – In this Dec. 9, 2020, file photo, test specialist Lester Gopar works at a COVID-19 testing site in Los Angeles. As officials met to discuss approval of a COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Dec. 10, the number of coronavirus deaths has grown bleaker than ever. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

(CN) — The Golden State reported a record-shattering 379 Covid-19 deaths and more than 53,000 new cases Thursday, even as health officials in Southern California waved the white flag after running out of intensive care unit beds.

California has become a virus epicenter in the last several weeks with record-breaking deaths, hospitalizations and new infections. The surge has pushed hospitals to the brink, with over 16,000 Californians hospitalized with Covid-19 and nearly 3,400 in ICUs across the state according to the Public Health Department.

The next few weeks will likely bring many more hospitalizations.

In the last two days the state has seen 106,000 new confirmed cases. And while cases, hospitalizations and deaths skyrocket across the state, densely populated Los Angeles County has been hit especially hard. The county saw roughly 14,000 new cases and reported a one-day record of 4,600 people in the hospital and over 130 deaths on Wednesday. That was followed by another 14,000 cases and 102 deaths on Thursday.

“We’re experiencing an explosive and very deadly surge,” said LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer during a Wednesday briefing. “The virus is still very much with us and continues to devastate lives throughout the county and completely overwhelm our hospital care system.”

The news became more dire Thursday, when state health officials reported the Southern California region — which includes LA, San Diego, Orange, Ventura, San Luis Obispo and six other counties — has no empty ICU beds.

There are some remaining hospital beds in LA County according to a health department spokesperson in a statement, but those beds “are a finite resource, primarily because we won’t have enough trained staff to meet the continued needs.”

State health officials watched over the last 10 days as ICU capacity precariously dropped across the region, a metric that was meant to gauge how close hospitals were to being overrun. In the early days of the pandemic, state health officials leased surge facilities to brace for such a scenario, but it never came. Instead, hospitals weathered a mild summer surge.

Now, California has seen a staggering 1.7 million confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, most of which have occurred in the fall.

Farther north, the San Joaquin Valley region has bounced between zero and 1% ICU capacity and the Greater Sacramento region reports just 11% of its ICU beds are empty. The Bay Area region has 13% of its ICU beds free while the northern part of the state stands at 25% capacity.

Any county that dips below 15% capacity trips a regional three-week stay-at-home order. Those orders can be extended if ICU capacity does not improve.

Some parts of the state enacted their own stay-at-home orders before they were required. But some residents think elected officials should do more to stem the spread of the virus.

A coalition of union officials representing health care workers, teachers and two medical experts asked the LA County Board of Supervisors to rollout a “circuit breaker” measure — a strict, month-long lockdown to get the virus under control.

“Hospitals across LA County are bringing in mobile morgues because they know what’s coming unless we act decisively,” said pathologist Dr. Sue Chang, assistant clinical professor at the City of Hope, in a statement to the board. “As a physician, my priority is saving lives and keeping people healthy. I have done all that I can. I’m looking at the Board of Supervisors and asking if they have done all that they can, or if they plan to continue making the false choice between saving lives and saving jobs.”

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