California could see 100,000 hospitalizations in January

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FILE - In this Dec. 14, 2020, file photo, California Gov. Gavin Newsom holds up a vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center in Los Angeles. When Gov. Newsom provided a dire view of California's out-of-control surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations this week, he referred to projection models of future death and misery were becoming "alarmingly" more accurate. If true, then within a month the state's hospitals could be overflowing with 75,000 patients, about five times the current level and an average of 400 people will die every day. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

LOS ANGELES – California has recorded a half-million coronavirus cases in the last two weeks and in a month could be facing a once-unthinkable caseload of nearly 100,000 hospitalizations, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state's top health official said Monday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, himself quarantined for the second time in two months, acknowledged that a state projection model shows hospitalizations in that range and said he’s likely to extend his stay-at-home order for much of the state next week.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s secretary of Health and Human Services. said it's feared entire areas of the state may run out of room even in their makeshift “surge" capacity units "by the end of the month and early in January.” In response, the state is updating its planning guide for how hospitals would ration care if everyone can't get the treatment they need, he said.

“Our goal is to make sure those plans are in place, but work hard to make sure no one has to put them into place anywhere in California,” Ghaly said.

It hopes to accomplish that by beefing up temporary staffing, opening makeshift hospitals in places like gymnasiums, tents and a vacant NBA arena, and by sending patients to regions of the state that might have precious remaining beds. Officials said residents can still play perhaps the biggest role by skipping holiday gatherings and practicing precautions to slow the spread.

California is enduring by far its worst spike in cases and hospitalizations. All of Southern California and the 12-county San Joaquin Valley to the north have been out of regular ICU capacity for days. Those two regions are the ones Newsom are likely to have stay-at-home orders extended, meaning many business must remain closed, restaurants can only serve takeout and virtually all retail is limited to 20% capacity.

California is averaging almost 44,000 newly confirmed cases a day and has recorded 525,000 in the last two weeks. It's estimated 12% those who test positive end up in the hospital. That means 63,000 hospitalizations from the last 14 days of cases. The current figure is 17,190.

The state’s public health department in June released crisis planning guidelines for hospitals and other care facilities during the pandemic. It provides detailed guidance for how to manage care decisions when resources are scarce.