New California stay-home order weighed as Covid hospitalisations surge

Rosio Osuna, 47, is tested for Covid-19, in East Los Angeles, California November 10, 2020. — Reuters pic
Rosio Osuna, 47, is tested for Covid-19, in East Los Angeles, California November 10, 2020. — Reuters pic

SACRAMENTO, Dec 1 — California Governor Gavin Newsom said yesterday he may impose tougher coronavirus restrictions over the next two days, including a possible stay-at-home order, to counter surging Covid-19 hospitalisations that threaten to overwhelm intensive care units.

Newsom said projections show ICU admissions are on track to exceed statewide capacity by mid-December unless public health policies and social behaviour patterns are altered to curb the spread of the virus.

Last week, Newsom instituted a curfew barring social gatherings and other non-essential activities across most of the state between 10pm and 5am daily.

The curfew and other constraints placed on social and economic activity across California, a state of some 40 million people, already represent some of the most stringent Covid-19 public health measures in effect nationwide.

Newsom told reporters during an online briefing the next round of restrictions under consideration may include an order similar to California’s first-in-the-nation statewide stay-home mandate, imposed in March, at the outset of the pandemic.

Los Angeles County, the state’s most populous, has already taken such a step, banning nearly all social gatherings of people from more than one household, around the clock, for the next three weeks, under an order that took effect yesterday.

The governor and the state’s top health official, Dr. Mark Ghaly, said they are primarily focused on trying to curb soaring Covid-19 infection rates that are expected to strain hospital resources to a dangerous level.

Roughly 12 per cent of daily new Covid-19 cases in California end up requiring hospitalisation within two weeks of infection, with as many as 30 per cent of patients eventually requiring admission to ICU wards or respiratory support, they said.

Coronavirus-related hospitalisations have already climbed nearly 90 per cent over the past two weeks, Newsom said.

Even more alarming, the governor cited data projections showing hospital ICU wards reaching 112 per cent of capacity by mid-December statewide — and 134 per cent of capacity in northern California by early next month — even if hospitals overall have room to spare.

Three-fourths of ICU beds statewide are already occupied.

“What we worry about this time is specifically the ICUs,” Ghaly said. “Even when we may be using only 70 per cent of our hospital beds in the state, we’re using over 100 per cent of the projected capacity in ICU space.” — Reuters

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