OAKLAND — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday said he’s considering imposing stay-at-home orders on California counties to curb an explosion in coronavirus cases that threaten to overwhelm hospitals by Christmas.
Newsom said he could impose the additional restrictions within the next couple of weeks. He suggested that the state could target the orders in areas where hospitals are most at risk of being overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients.
“We are trying to be much more specific, more surgical … and more prescriptive in terms of looking at the efficacy and looking at where the data leads us to making those determinations sector by sector,” Newsom explained.
The background: California has controlled Covid-19 spread better than most states — ranking 39th out of 50 in per capita case rates — but Newsom on Monday sounded the alarm over the unprecedented pace of new infection spread.
The state this weekend moved six more counties into the state’s most restrictive purple tier, now affecting 99 percent of residents.
California currently prohibits indoor dining, gyms and church services in 51 of 58 counties, among other restrictions. If Newsom reimposes limits comparable to the spring, most outdoor business activities would be prohibited and people would have to stay home except for essential services.
Los Angeles County has already imposed a stay-home order this week.
The data: California’s seven-day average of new daily cases has reached 14,600 — higher than the peak of the summer surge. Newsom stressed the potential strain on hospitals around the state and that additional restrictions may be necessary to ensure enough beds are available.
State health officials predict that absent any additional interventions or behaviors, hospitalizations could double or triple in just one month and ICUs could exceed capacity. Statewide, ICU admissions could reach 112 percent of capacity by Dec. 24.
“What we worry about at this time is specifically the ICUs,” Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Mark Ghaly said, referring to ICU capacity as the “primary trigger” for further restrictions and a stay-at-home order.
About 12 percent of all Covid-19 cases require hospitalization, and about 10 percent to 30 percent of those hospitalizations become ICU admissions.
“That is the lay of the land in terms of the red flags that are flying. Not yellow flags,” Newsom said.
On vaccines: Newsom noted that California anticipates getting 327,000 vaccine doses in mid-December, with second doses likely to follow within another three weeks.
Because that initial tranche falls far short of covering enough of the front-line health care workers at the front of the queue, the group drafting the guidelines for how to equitably distribute the virus is expected to release its report this week for the first phase of distribution.
The outlook: Newsom and Ghaly said they are in constant contact with health officials and expect to make the decision on additional restrictions in the coming days. Ghaly suggested that the state could limit the duration of a stay-home order based on what conditions they’re seeing on the ground.