The state has seen its number of cases climb exponentially in recent weeks, fueled largely by people who ignored warnings and held traditional Thanksgiving gatherings, health officials say. Soaring rates of hospitalizations and deaths have overwhelmed intensive care units and prompted hospitals to put emergency room patients in tents and treat others in offices and auditoriums.
Nearly the entire state is under a stay-home order that imposed an overnight curfew, shuttered many businesses and restricted most retail to 20% capacity. Restaurants may only serve takeout.
Pleas to avoid social gatherings for the Christmas and New Year’s rang with special desperation in Southern California. Los Angeles County is leading the surge, accounting for one-third of the state’s COVID-19 cases and nearly 40% of deaths.
“We know that this emergency is our darkest day, maybe the darkest day in our city’s history,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday, when the county reported its highest death toll and hospitalizations in a single day since the pandemic began — 145 deaths and more than 6,000 people in hospitals.
More than 9,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the county.
If LA County continues to see the same growth in COVID-19 infections in the next two weeks, hospitals may find themselves having to ration care because of a lack of medical staff, Garcetti said.
“That means the doctors will be forced to determine who lives and who dies,” he said.
Medical workers are discouraged and outraged over scenes of crowded outdoor malls, packed parking lots, and parents and children walking around without masks, county Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly said.
Santa Clara County near San Francisco was down to 35 ICU beds, putting hospitals dangerously close to rationing care, said Dr. Ahmad Kamal, the county’s director of health care preparedness.
“We are talking about people in gurneys without a bed to go to. We are talking about people not getting hospital care; we are talking about rationing what scarce resources our exhausted health system has left to those who would benefit the most,” he said.
Overall, California on Wednesday recorded the second-highest number of deaths, at 361. The number of coronavirus patients in intensive care units nearly doubled in just three weeks, to 3,827 cases, while the state’s ICU capacity fell to 1.1%, down from 2.5% just two days ago. The number of hospitalizations jumped to 18,828 patients, more than double since Dec. 1, with 605 new patients in one day.
Yet there were slight but encouraging signs of hope.
The transmission rate — the number of people that one infected person will in turn infect — has been slowing for nearly two weeks. The rate of positive cases reached a new high of 12.3% over a two-week period, but was starting to trend downward over the last seven days from a peak of 13.3% to 12.6%.
The state also has nearly 1,000 health workers assisting at 91 facilities in 25 of the state’s 58 counties, and is opening a fifth alternative care site in San Diego County.
The California National Guard was setting up about 200 beds on vacant floors of the Palomar Health Center near San Diego, within the existing hospital complex, said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. It could begin accepting patients Christmas Day, relieving overburdened hospitals particularly in nearby Imperial County.
California expects more federal medical workers to arrive by the weekend, and Gov. Gavin Newsom said he expects more of the 3,000 contract health care workers the state is seeking to arrive after the holidays.
The governor also said more than 128,000 doses of vaccines had been administered as of Tuesday, in another encouraging sign beyond the modest decline in the transmission rate.
But Newsom also warned that any progress could dissipate quickly, leading to the nearly 100,000 hospitalizations some models project in one month if people don’t heed calls to avoid holiday gatherings, particularly indoors.
“This virus loves social events,” Newsom said. “This virus thrives in that atmosphere.”
Thompson reported from Sacramento. Associated Press reporters Janie Har in San Francisco and Daisy Nguyen in Oakland contributed.
John Antczak And Don Thompson, The Associated Press
COVID deaths rise to 53 in Northern Health – Prince George Citizen
One more person in the Northern Health region has died from COVID-19, according to B.C. Centre for Disease Control numbers issued Tuesday.
The fatality increased the total to 53 in the region since the pandemic broke out and was among 12 deaths reported province-wide, increasing that total to 1,090 deaths. Seven of those new deaths were in Fraser Health, raising the total there to 611.
Active cases in Northern Health stood at 525, down by six from the day before, with 40 in hospital, no change from Monday, and 17 of them in intensive care, up by one.
For B.C. as a whole, active cases rose by six to 4,331, with Fraser Health accounting for 1,737, up 34, and Vancouver Coastal 818, down 35. Interior Health stood at 1,055, Vancouver Island at 184 and out of Canada at 12 with marginal changes in those totals from Monday.
Meanwhile, Northern Health reported a new exposure D.P. Todd Secondary School. It is for Jan. 11-12 and is the second time the school has been put on the list.
“If your child’s school has been notified of an exposure, no action is required unless you are contacted by Public Health or are otherwise directed by school officials,” Northern Health says in the posting. “Public Health will contact you directly in case of any school exposure involving your child.”
In a joint statement, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and health minister Adrian Dix stressed good practices while people wait for the vaccine rollout.
“The vaccines are our path forward to the brighter days ahead. However, until that path is wide enough for everyone, we must continue to focus on our individual efforts,” they said.
“To get to the finish line faster and to make our communities safer, we must stop the spread in our communities today. We do that by following the measures we have in place: washing our hands, staying home when we are ill, getting tested and always using our layers of protection.
“Let’s choose safety by continuing to do our part to protect everyone in our province.”
Also on Tuesday, Dix said B.C. is still on track to begin administering second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine despite the news that no vials will be delivered to Canada next week.
COVID-19 update: B.C.'s health ministry to reveal latest new cases, deaths, outbreaks – CTV News Vancouver
British Columbia reported another 465 cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths related to the disease on Tuesday.
The province has now recorded a total of 61,912 coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic and 1,090 fatalities.
In a joint statement, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix offered condolences to “everyone who lost their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Another 443 people have recovered from the disease since B.C.’s last update, leaving 4,331 active cases across the province.
That includes 329 patients in hospital, 70 of whom are in intensive care.
The province has seen an average of 479 cases per day over the last week, which is similar to the number of infections that were being identified at end of December.
The rolling seven-day average increased to 582 cases per day after the first week of January, but has been gradually decreasing since.
Tuesday’s COVID-19 update came hours after the federal government confirmed Canada would not be receiving any new shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week. The country received 82 per cent of its expected shipment this week as a result of previously announced delays.
B.C. was expecting to receive about 5,800 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week, though Dix said the province still expects to be able to deliver second doses as scheduled.
Health officials have decided on a 35-day interval between doses, and Wednesday will mark 36 days from when B.C. began administering its first shots.
The province should be receiving 25,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine per week after the shortage ends, according to Dix.
While British Columbians await their turn to get immunized against COVID-19, Henry and Dix stressed the need to continue their individual efforts to limit the spread of the disease.
“To get to the finish line faster and to make our communities safer, we must stop the spread in our communities today. We do that by following the measures we have in place: washing our hands, staying home when we are ill, getting tested and always using our layers of protection,” they said.
“Let’s choose safety by continuing to do our part to protect everyone in our province.”
With files from The Canadian Press
City of Winnipeg allowed employees to use its gyms during code red – CTV News Winnipeg
The City of Winnipeg has been allowing its employees to use gyms and fitness centres at its facilities amid code red restrictions due to an exemption for governments in health orders.
The City of Winnipeg confirmed to CTV News on Tuesday evening that fitness facilities in Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service and Winnipeg Police Service stations, along with six other facilities, have been open and operating for city employees only under a reduced capacity limit.
The city said these centres were used predominantly by first responders working in or near the buildings.
Under current health orders that have been in place in Manitoba since Nov. 12, all indoor sporting or recreational facilities, including gyms and fitness facilities, must be closed. Though some restrictions are expected to be eased when health orders expire on Friday, the province said gyms and fitness centres will be required to remain closed for now.
Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, said while the City of Winnipeg was not specifically given permission to operate its in-house gyms, the health orders that required gyms and fitness centres to close do not apply to any level of government.
“We expect governments to be able to regulate and so we’re not going to tell governments how they function,” Roussin said. “If they feel that they could have limited capacity and run these gyms for their employees for certain reasons, then we’re not regulating that.”
Roussin said if gyms and fitness centres were allowed to open across Manitoba, it could cause cases to spike.
He said he was aware that health inspectors visited some of the gyms operating at City of Winnipeg facilities, and found them safe.
Transcona Coun. Shawn Nason blew the whistle on social media about the city’s operation of fitness centres during code red restrictions.
“I’m disappointed in myself for being so distracted with the business at City Hall to have not raised the issue sooner than when I became aware today that the City was not covered under the blanket rules assigned by (the) Province,” Nason said in a statement to CTV News.
“Even though I didn’t access the gym at any time during the Code Red restrictions, we should respect the provincial orders and align ourselves with so many that have had to shutter their businesses due (to) this unprecedented time.”
A spokesperson for the city told CTV News the city was not aware until today that it was being allowed to operate its fitness centres solely because it is a municipal government.
“Several months ago, we sought clarification from provincial public health officials on whether fitness facilities within civic workplaces accessible only to, and for City employees, could remain open,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“The province advised us that these facilities could in fact continue to operate provided posted capacity limits and physical guidelines were maintained and adhered to.”
Despite the exemption, they said effective immediately the city is closing its employee fitness centres.
Fitness centres at Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service and Winnipeg Police Service stations will continue to operate because “mandatory fitness standards are a requirement of first responders’ jobs.”
“We will continue to encourage our employees to explore alternative ways of maintaining their physical health while adhering to public health guidelines,” they said.
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