California reports record for COVID-19 deaths as ICU bed availability falls


(LOS ANGELES) — California reported a record number of COVID-19 deaths on Thursday as the virus continues to surge in the state and health officials warn of dwindling hospital beds.

There were 379 new deaths reported, surpassing the previous day’s record of 293. There were 52,281 newly recorded confirmed cases — the second-highest yet after Wednesday’s record — and the seven-day positivity rate is 12.8%, health officials said.

As COVID-19 cases show no signs of peaking, hospitals throughout the state are being strained. More than half of the state’s intensive care unit capacity is filled with patients who have COVID-19, officials said. The state has 11 alternative care sites that can be activated to reduce the strain on hospitals, five of which currently have patients.

Statewide, ICU bed availability is 3%, down from 5.7% two days ago. In Southern California, it fell to 0% on Thursday, officials said.

The Bay Area became the fourth region on Thursday to enact a new state-mandated stay-at-home order, which is triggered when ICU capacity falls below 15%. The Southern California, San Joaquin Valley and Greater Sacramento areas are also under the order, which lasts for at least three weeks and closes nonessential businesses such as hair salons and movie theaters and limits retail operations. Northern California is the only region not under the order.

Los Angeles County in particular is experiencing “very dangerous” hospital conditions, Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the Department of Health Services for the county, told ABC News.

“We’re in a very serious phase of this pandemic,” she said. “Our hospitals are full, our emergency departments are full, our intensive care units are full. There’s just a handful of beds that are available in any given hospital at any point in time. And this is not a situation that anybody wants to be in.”

Limited hospital capacity has consequences for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients, she said.

“The truth is right now with the level of stress and strain that the hospitals are under, that there are simply not the resources — specifically the staff — needed to care for the number of patients that need care, and that is going to have far-reaching consequences on everyone,” she said. “We will see too many deaths. We’ll see people pass away that shouldn’t have had to die.”

On Thursday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported that there are 4,864 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized — 20% of whom are in the ICU. In the last two days the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has increased by more than 450 people, officials said. There were 102 new deaths.

The positivity rate is up to 19.6% in LA County.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Thursday evening that his 9-year-old daughter tested positive for COVID-19 and was presenting with mild symptoms. He and his wife have tested negative.

Health officials pointed to Thanksgiving gatherings and travel as partly to blame for the “devastation.”

“We are now learning a very painful lesson that, despite how much we want things to go back to normal, this virus is relentless and will continue to spread, make people very ill and tragically lead to people passing away,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “We can’t afford another holiday season surge that will further overwhelm our already strained hospitals and healthcare staff. We must all work together to prevent as much death as possible.”

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