The number of people hospitalized with coronavirus infections in California has doubled in the past two weeks and is on track to quickly surpass its summer high, according to an analysis from The Times.
The surge in hospitalizations came as California passed another grim milestone: more than 19,000 COVID-19-related deaths, according to the Times independent county-by-county tally.
There were nearly 6,650 people with coronavirus infections in California hospitals as of Thursday, double the number that existed on November 11, when 3,300 people were hospitalized. Thursday’s hospitalizations were 93% of the peak COVID-19 hospitalizations recorded in mid-July, when 7,170 people were in hospital.
The extraordinary growth in hospitalizations is accelerating at a sustained rate unprecedented since the first months of the pandemic. In Los Angeles County, the total number of people in hospitals with coronavirus infections is increasing by about 80 patients per day on average over a seven-day period – a rate of increase not seen since the first weeks of the pandemic.
As of Thursday, more than 1,950 people with coronavirus infections were hospitalized in LA County. That’s more than 87% of LA County’s worst day for hospitalizations, in mid-July, when more than 2,200 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized.
Los Angeles County health officials have sounded the alarm that they are on the verge of seeing a bed shortage – especially in intensive care units – over the next two to four weeks if these trends continue. continue.
If the number of COVID-19 patients continues to rise, “people should be prepared to potentially have their non-essential surgeries or procedures canceled so that hospitals can make room,” Dr Christina Ghaly said Wednesday, departmental director of health services.
Although hospitals have plans in place to increase capacity if needed, Ghaly said the biggest challenge is staffing – especially in intensive care units. There are only a limited number of nurses, doctors and other staff who are properly trained to provide care at the critical care level.
San Diego County was on its sixth straight day of record-breaking COVID-19 hospital patients, with 563 people in its hospitals as of Thursday. That’s already a 37% increase from its previous high of 411, set this summer.
San Bernardino County on Thanksgiving broke its all-time high for COVID-19 hospitalizations, with 656 people in hospital beds Thursday – surpassing its previous record of 638 patients set in July.
Riverside County reported 498 hospital patients on Thursday, approaching its all-time high of 550, also set in July.
COVID-19-related hospitalizations have doubled in Orange County in the past twelve days or so. More than 500 people with coronavirus infections were in Orange County hospitals on Thursday; there were nearly 250 such patients on November 14. Ventura County was in the same situation: There were 81 people enrolled in coastal county hospitals on Thursday, up from 38 on November 14.
Other areas of California have also been hit hard. Sacramento County recorded 263 COVID-19 patients in its hospitals on Thursday, near its record of 281 hospitalizations set this summer.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Clara County has surpassed its record for summer hospitalizations. As of Thursday, 230 infected people were in its hospitals, a 17% increase from its previous high of 196 in the summer.
States across the country were also reporting a sharp increase in hospitalizations related to COVID-19. “With only partial reports today, and many states not submitting data, we are nonetheless seeing a staggering increase in the total number of hospitalizations at Covid nationwide; reflecting the sharp increase in new infections that we have seen in recent weeks and the time between diagnosis and hospitalization, ”Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former Commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration, tweeted Thursday.
Epidemiologists have also started to worry about a growing trend for restaurants to erect plastic sheeting around their outdoor dining areas to protect diners from the wind.
Surrounding a dining area with plastic sheeting or other material that blocks airflow helps keep the coronavirus inside what is essentially a tent, instead of tiny respiratory particles being blown away by the wind. . This makes it more likely that other people will breathe in greater amounts of the virus and be infected by their table mates.
State officials on Wednesday released a note stating that outdoor restaurants may have an awning or other type of shelter from the sun, but no more than 50% of the perimeter of the outdoor dining area may. be surrounded by impermeable walls.
In California, stringent pandemic control measures have twice succeeded in lowering infection rates and the number of daily deaths, largely by finding ways to keep people from different households from mixing.
But the pandemic fatigue that has surfaced over the past two months is likely leading more people to decide to ignore the recommendations to stay home as much as possible.
Health officials say they suspect the recent surge in coronavirus cases is linked to things such as holiday celebrations; gatherings to watch games and celebrations for the Lakers and Dodgers winning the NBA Finals and the World Series respectively; increased outbreaks in the workplace; increased movement of people coming or returning from areas with high transmission rates; and cooler weather, which tends to make people stay more indoors.
There are concerns that many people ignoring the recommendations to stay home for Thanksgiving could lead to an even worse increase in hospitalizations and deaths in December and January. An influential model predicts that, based on current policies, the cumulative number of deaths from a pandemic in California would double to over 37,000 by the end of winter.
Epidemiologists have long said that any activity in which people are not wearing masks and are close to each other puts them at risk of contracting the coronavirus. The virus can be spread by coughing, talking, and even breathing.
The daily number of new coronavirus cases and deaths reported over Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday weekend is expected to be lower than normal, due to the fact that many counties did not release reports over the weekend of vacation. Only 10 of California’s 58 counties released new Thanksgiving case and death figures.