California to face another lockdown if ICU units fill up
Gov. Gavin Newsom canceled the state's stay-at-home orders Monday. Photo courtesy of the California governor's office.

    Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state will go under a mandatory stay-at-home order for regions where available intensive care unit capacity falls below 15%.

    “The bottom line is if we don’t act now our hospital system will be overwhelmed,” Newsom said. “If we don’t act now we’ll continue to see more lives lost.”

    State health officials project ICU capacity in the Bay Area will fall below 15% in mid-late December, unlike other regions which will drop below 15% within the next few days.

    “All within the next few weeks, our ICU capacity will drop within these regions,” Newsom said.

    The restrictions will affect a collective of counties in each region, rather than each county individually.

    Newsom’s announcement came as Santa Clara County health officials reported a troubling spike in COVID-19 cases in congregate care facilities, which include homeless shelters and nursing homes.

    At the Boccardo Reception Center, an emergency shelter on Little Orchard Street in San Jose, 60 people tested positive since Nov. 23, four of them staff. It marked the first major outbreak at a homeless shelter since the start of the pandemic, said Dr. George Han, the county’s deputy public health officer.

    At South Hall, another homeless shelter in San Jose, seven people tested positive since Nov. 18, one of them staff.

    Han said the county has stepped up testing and support at the facilities. Those who tested positive and those who were exposed were transferred to hotel rooms, Han said.

    No California regions are yet under the stay-at-home order.

    If the Bay Area falls under the stay-at-home order, barbershops, hair salons, personal services, bars and wineries will temporarily close.

    Schools with waivers and critical infrastructure can remain open, retail can continue doing business at 20% capacity and restaurants can only serve take-out and delivery – shuttering outdoor and indoor dining. Santa Clara County has already closed indoor dining and limited nonessential retail to 10% capacity.

    Newsom added all nonessential travel is temporarily restricted but did not outline what rules would go in effect.

    As of Dec. 2, 971 people died of COVID-19 in California with 113 of them in one day, Newsom said.

    “The effects of Thanksgiving, they have not yet been felt,” Newsom said. “Dr. (Anthony) Fauci said it best: We should anticipate a surge on top of a surge.”

    Newsom said the state will decide where to lift its stay-at-home order based on case rates and hospitalizations, but noted it will likely take a long time.

    He also broke down more details on who in California will receive COVID-19 vaccines first.

    About 327,000 expected doses of the Pfizer vaccine will go to paramedics, EMTs and other emergency medical providers.

    The rest of the doses will go to skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, dialysis centers, acute care hospitals, psychiatric hospitals and correctional facility hospitals.

    Santa Clara County has 287 people hospitalized for COVID-19, which is 11% of total patients.

    Local hospitals have 83 COVID-19 patients in intensive care, taking up 22% of ICU capacity.

    As of Dec. 2, the county tallied 35,945 COVID-19 cases and 486 deaths. The state recorded 1,264,539 COVID-19 cases and 19,437 deaths.

    Newsom urged Californians to remain optimistic, and said this is the surge health officials had predicted.

    “There is light at the end of the tunnel,” Newsom said. “We are a few months away from truly seeing real progress with the vaccine, real distribution, real accessibility, real availability. We do not anticipate having to do this once again.”

    Contact Mauricio La Plante at [email protected] or follow @mslaplantenews on Twitter.

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