Counties across California enacted stricter COVID-19 restrictions on Monday as cases surge statewide and Thanksgiving travelers return home, and officials were considering a new lockdown order if the current trend continues.
Health officials are preparing for a wave of virus cases over the next two or three weeks that could be linked to Thanksgiving gatherings. Authorities had urged residents to stay home and limit their interactions with others, but millions nationwide defied the advice.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that ICU beds in California will be at 112% capacity by Dec. 24, according to state projections. Newsom indicated a new stay-at-home order is possible if the surge in cases and hospitalizations continues.
"If these trends continue, we're going to have to much more dramatic, arguably drastic action, including taking a look at those purple tier counties," Newsom said. "If we see these trends continue, the potential for a stay-at-home order for those regions in purple because of hospitalizations and ICUs."
With regard to a timeline on vaccines, Newsom said he and his team anticipate California will receive about 327,000 initial doses by mid-December, with the second doses coming three weeks later.
California has had nearly 1.2 million confirmed cases since the pandemic began, with 19,121 virus-related deaths.
The state reported 7,415 coronavirus hospitalizations on Sunday, citing the most recently available data from the previous day. More than 1,700 of those patients are in intensive care units. The number of hospitalizations broke the state’s previous record of 7,170 in July.
The figures are expected to rise in coming days as similar trends happen nationally.
The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in the United States topped 200,000 for the first time Friday. The highest previous daily count was 196,000 on Nov. 20, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Since January, when the first infections were reported in the U.S., the nation’s total number of cases has surpassed 13 million. More than 265,000 people have died.
“The big unknown here is what actions were people taking over this long holiday weekend,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.
If people engaged in high-risk activities, she said, “we’re in for a very rough time because we will have a surge on top of a surge.”
California county officials statewide issued new restrictions, with many taking effect Monday, in an effort to avoid overwhelming hospitals.
Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous, imposed new rules calling for its 10 million residents to stay home “as much as possible,” prohibiting them from gathering with people outside of their households for public or private occasions — except for faith-based services and protests.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has estimated that the county’s COVID-19 death toll could reach over 11,500 by the end of the year — meaning that more than 4,000 residents could die in over the next five weeks, the Los Angeles Times reported. A record number of people in the county were infected last week.
In Northern California, Santa Clara County — home to Silicon Valley — banned all high school, collegiate and professional sports and imposed a quarantine for people traveling to the region from areas more than 150 miles away.
San Francisco and San Mateo counties moved to the most restrictive purple tier in the state’s pandemic blueprint for the economy, forcing most indoor activities to close by noon Sunday and placing the residents under curfew starting Monday night.
In San Francisco’s famous Golden Gate Park, the new 150-foot Ferris wheel named SkyStar closed Sunday under the new tier’s restrictions.
The wheel was supposed to be the centerpiece of the park’s 150th anniversary being celebrated all year and was only approved to open in late October. No reopening date has been announced.