Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a regional stay-at-home order on Thursday afternoon following a sharp rise in the state’s COVID-related hospitalizations and ICU visits.
The move comes after hospitalizations and ICU visits rose 87 percent and 67 percent respectively over the past two weeks — a surge Newsom said is pushing California’s health care system to the brink. California logged 18,591 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday and has a current seven-day rolling average north of 15,000, one of the highest recorded since the pandemic began. Newsom said that the effects of Thanksgiving-related travel and gatherings “have not been felt” yet.
“We should anticipate a surge on top of a surge,” the governor said, citing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert.
In response, the state will impose a three-week stay-at-home order on regions where ICU capacity dips below 15 percent. The five regions, which are based upon pre-existing mutual aid systems between health care networks, are Northern California, Greater Sacramento, Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.
The governor said that based on his office’s estimates, all but one of those regions — the Bay Area — are on track to hit the 15% threshold within the “next few days.” The “Bay Area,” in this instance, consists of the nine counties that traditionally comprise the region, plus Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. Newsom said the region is expected to reach the tipping point in mid-to-late December, he said.
As of Dec. 1, 34 percent of San Francisco’s ICU beds were still available. At its lowest point, the city had an ICU capacity of just 22% on May 25.
“We are pulling an emergency brake,” Newsom said, stating that the new measures are necessary to “blunt the surge” of virus cases hammering the state.
The stay-at-home order will close bars, wineries, hair salons and other personal services. Restaurants will remain open for takeout and delivery only. Retail stores can stay open at 20 percent capacity and critical infrastructure will stay open, in addition to schools that have received waivers.
Newsom stressed the importance of wearing masks or other face coverings and limiting interaction with non-household individuals, especially while indoors. He acknowledged the mental-health repercussions of stay-at-home orders like these and encouraged Californians to prioritize both their mental and physical health by engaging in outdoor recreational activities like hiking, fishing or snowboarding.
The advice might be greeted with derision by some, as both Newson and San Francisco mayor London Breed have come under fire in recent weeks for attending dinner parties at the upscale Napa Valley restaurant French Laundry while simultaneously encouraging their constituents to avoid multi-household gatherings. San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo also faced backlash for attending a large private Thanksgiving dinner.
As the statewide positivity rate has climbed to 7 percent, California has readied itself for its hospital systems to be overwhelmed. According to Newson, there are eleven new “pre-positioned surge facilities” outside the traditional health care delivery system that are in “warm status,” meaning they are prepared to care for COVID-19 patients. The state currently has a whopping 518.3 million combined procedural and N-95 masks in its inventory and possesses 14,233 ventilators.
“15% ICU” was trending on Twitter as of Thursday afternoon.