There’s no getting around that: California is in a bad spot and things are likely to get worse before they get better.
The state’s intensive care units could be overcrowded by mid-December and its hospitals could be dangerously close to full by Christmas, according to disappointing projections presented on Monday by Governor Gavin Newsom.
And the tension could be even worse in the hardest-hit areas, like the San Joaquin Valley, which is expected to reach 83% of its hospital capacity by December 24.
“If these trends continue, California will need to take drastic action,” Newsom said in a briefing, adding that tougher restrictions, including full stay-at-home orders, could come in the coming days.
[Track coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in California.]
Already, 99 percent of California residents are under the curfew in place for counties in the state’s most restrictive purple reopening level. And other countries have gone even further. Los Angeles County has closed outdoor restaurants, while Santa Clara County’s temporary ban on contact sports has prompted the San Francisco 49ers to move their next two games to the home of the Arizona Cardinals .
California is just one of many states that appeared to have taken control of the virus, only to see it spread rapidly throughout the fall. On Sunday, it became the first state to record more than 100,000 cases in just one week, according to a New York Times database.
[Read more about how the pandemic has upended football.]
A team of Covid-19 models from the University of Arizona recently urged the state of Arizona to take action to stem hospitalizations or “risk a disaster on the scale of the worst natural disaster that the State has ever known.
In New York City, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said the state would take a series of emergency measures in the face of a new “nightmare of overwhelmed hospitals.”
Officials spent the weekend chatting with local leaders and health care providers about their concerns, said Dr Mark Ghaly, California Secretary of Health and Human Services.
“Everything is on the table, in terms of how we guide the state through this,” he said. “And we want to make sure that what we’re doing is impactful and as time-bound as possible.”
[Get caught up on the latest California restrictions here.]
But unlike the start of the pandemic, when only a few states were hit the hardest, the nationwide tidal wave of cases limited the likelihood of help from the federal government or other states. said the governor.
The total number of coronavirus cases in the United States for November surpassed four million on Saturday, more than double the record set in October.
In contrast, after three weeks of lockdown in England, the number of new cases has dropped by 30%, new data shows.
[Build your own Covid dashboard to keep an eye on cases in places that are important to you.]
Mr Newsom stressed that California would be able to build on efforts the state began earlier this year, including a registry of retired or part-time healthcare workers who would be ready to return to work. . Eleven emergency health care facilities could be quickly prepared to receive patients.
“We are not planning this,” he said, referring to alarming hospitalization figures. “I want people to know that we intend to bend this proverbial curve.”
The governor once again went through a long list of steps he said the state had taken to secure financial assistance for struggling residents and businesses.
And he added that vaccines could be available for some frontline healthcare workers as early as the middle of this month.
But he implored the federal government to send more relief.
“We need Congress to act urgently,” he said.
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A question that continues to loom in the background as Californians navigate the latest wave of Covid: Who will Mr. Newsom choose to replace Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in the Senate?
My colleagues and I have reported that Secretary of State Alex Padilla is still the recognized leader. But the choice is difficult for the governor, who must balance the competing and increasingly public pressures.
[Read the full story.]
I spoke to Sonja Diaz, founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at the University of California at Los Angeles, about why she and others called on the governor to choose a state’s first Latino senator. 40% Latino. .
What is at stake, she told me, is not just the representation of a massive and growing electorate. Choosing a Latino for one of the most powerful positions in the country would be a first step in reversing decades of what she has called “willful neglect” by California politicians.
“The election of Biden and Harris ushers in a new era,” she said, “but that doesn’t deny that Vice President-elect Harris’s home state never sent a Latino to the Senate. “
The last time California had a Hispanic governor was in 1875, when Lieutenant Governor Romualdo Pacheco served the remainder of another governor’s term.
[Read an interview with Robert Garcia, Long Beach’s mayor and a recently emerged contender.]
Now, Ms. Diaz said, as the white American population ages and needs the services of people who are more often workers of color, it is imperative to have leaders who will fight for policies that will ensure these workers a equitable access to resources such as education and health care.
This will be especially true after the pandemic, which has taken a huge toll on workers and Latin American communities, she said.
In other words: “More and more Americans depend on a workforce that they refuse to invest in,” she said.
Ms. Diaz noted that the main political parties had indeed contacted Latinos in other states and had achieved gains. She cited the Republican Party’s defense of Cuban-American leaders in Florida as an example.
[Read more about how Hispanic voters swung Miami right in the presidential election.]
In contrast, Ms. Diaz said California power brokers, Democrats and Republicans, have consistently failed to elevate Latinos, like Cruz Bustamante. The state electorate also supported anti-immigrant policies, such as Proposition 187, which was both credited with mobilizing Latino political activism and blamed for creating a nativist roadmap for d other states.
“If we’re being honest with ourselves, California has a role to play in the invisibility of Latinos,” she said.
Going forward, Diaz said California should play its role as a game changer. The governor, she said, has the opportunity to choose a powerful “Latino figurehead” who will be able to help develop a bench of Latino leaders across the country.
[Read more about the Senate vacancy and what it says about California.]
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Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from UC Berkeley and has reported statewide, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles – but she always wants to see more. Follow us here or on Twitter.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from UC Berkeley.