California Hospitalizations From COVID Surging; ICUs May Be Overwhelmed In Weeks

Pedestrians wearing facemasks walk past a display of mannequin heads also wearing facemasks earlier this month in Los Angeles.

Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images


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Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Pedestrians wearing facemasks walk past a display of mannequin heads also wearing facemasks earlier this month in Los Angeles.

Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Updated at 5:54 p.m. ET

California hospitals are in a new surge of COVID-19 cases and if trends continue, state intensive care units could be overwhelmed by Christmas Eve.

The state saw a new daily high for coronavirus cases, reaching 14,034 and an overall total of 1,212,968. An additional 20 deaths were reported for a total of 14,141.

There are 8,578 people in California hospitals with COVID-19 as of Monday. Overall 75% of intensive care unit beds are occupied — and without intervention could reach 112% by Dec. 24, according to projections shared by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday.

The state will consider further restrictions over the next two days similar to the shutdown order implemented earlier this year with “modifications,” Newsom said.

Black and Latino residents are being disproportionately affected by the virus and are more likely to die from it, according to The Los Angeles Times. Latinos are almost three times more likely than whites to test positive after adjusting for population.

Current case numbers are likely delayed due to some health offices closing on Thanksgiving. The number of reported cases could rise in the next few days, and the impact of holiday gatherings on infections may not be seen for weeks.

Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous with 10 million residents, went into another lockdown Monday. Residents are prohibited from gathering with people outside of their household for public or private occasions except for political protests and religious services.

“We were prepared for an increase,” said Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County public health director, on Saturday according to The Los Angeles Times. “None of us really thought the increase would be so big across such a short period of time.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti estimated that more than 4,000 residents could die in the next five weeks if the virus’ spread isn’t slowed, The Los Angeles Times reported.

California has classified 51 out of the state’s 58 counties as purple or “widespread,” the state’s highest risk-level assessment. This largely restricts indoor activities; closing bars, limiting restaurants to outdoor or takeout-only service and reducing occupancy in retail businesses. Purple counties are also under a curfew.

“We are sounding the alarm,” Gov. Newsom said earlier this month. “The spread of COVID-19, if left unchecked, could quickly overwhelm our health care system and lead to catastrophic outcomes.”

Reese Oxner is an intern with NPR’s News Desk.