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Health and Medicine

California COVID-19 Hospitalizations Surging; ICUs May Be Overwhelmed In Weeks

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

Most of California is under the state's highest risk-level assessment, restricting most indoor activities and gatherings.

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 19,141.

As of Monday, 8,578people are in California hospitals with COVID-19.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 because some health offices were closed 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 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's spread isn't slowed, the Los Angeles Times reported.

California has classified 51 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.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.