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California faces possible COVID-19 hospital crisis, lockdown

Hospitalizations from COVID-19 have increased nearly 90% and officials say they could triple by Christmas, overwhelming intensive care units.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California could see hospitalizations for coronavirus triple by Christmas and is considering stay-home orders for areas with the highest case rates to try to prevent hospitals from getting overwhelmed.  

Gov. Gavin Newsom is warning that “drastic” action such as a widespread stay-at-home order may be needed to combat the threat. Newsom on Monday said “red flags are flying." Hospitalizations from COVID-19 have increased nearly 90% and officials say they could triple by Christmas, overwhelming intensive care units.

Public health officials say people who ignored safety measures to gather for Thanksgiving could lead to a massive surge in cases by Christmas. Authorities say about 12% of those who are infected could wind up in the hospital.

Newsom warned that without more restrictions or changes in behavior, the number of coronavirus patients could double or triple in a month. Right now nearly 7,800 patients are hospitalized. But the biggest concern is intensive care cases, which increased 67% in the past two weeks. If that continues, it would push ICU beds to 112% of capacity by mid-December. The state’s top health official says ICU capacity will be the primary trigger as state officials consider more restrictions.

With the increase in numbers, officials in California have strongly recommended hospitals test all their workers each week for the coronavirus. The California Department of Public Health also recommends hospitals test all patients before admitting them and to promptly test current patients once they show symptoms. The California Nurses Association called it a victory for nurses, saying hospitals will spread the disease without robust testing of workers. But the California Hospital Association said it does not have the testing capability to make it happen.

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