Hospitals in California continued to fill up with patients, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday, even as the latest round of lockdowns took effect across much of the state.
The availability of intensive care beds is teetering in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley – the two regions where low capacity has led to stay-at-home orders – and more than 10,000 Covid-19 patients are now hospitalized in state, a figure more than 70% more than two weeks ago.
“You can see how quickly this is developing,” the governor said Monday morning.
Although the state averages 21,000 new known cases per day, twice as many as it reported at its worst time this summer and by far at its highest pandemic level, Mr Newsom has again tried to calm the panic.
[Track coronavirus cases and deaths across California.]
He said the state still has more than 73,000 open hospital beds and that regional health care officials have been looking into where to opt out of elective surgeries. He also mentioned programs allowing patients in hard-hit areas to be treated with oxygen at home and highlighted efforts to recruit additional health workers.
Yet, as my colleagues and I have reported, officials have warned for weeks of an increase in cases after Thanksgiving. And now state officials say that despite their efforts to ward off it, it looks like the wave has come.
“We know that cases that potentially happened during Thanksgiving are going to emerge now,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the California Secretary of Health and Human Services.
I had asked the Governor and Dr Ghaly if – knowing that the experts had sounded the alarm bells about Thanksgiving in particular – they had discussed the implementation of a larger stay-at-home order earlier.
The answer, unsurprisingly, was yes.
The state, they said, was working with healthcare providers, local officials and others to develop stay-at-home orders that would be as limited as possible, while curbing the spread of the virus.
“All of these pieces come together – these signals in our data – to get us to make the regional order to stay at home like we’ve done,” said Dr Ghaly.
As we have seen throughout the pandemic, even in California, where support for restrictions has been relatively high, balancing the many considerations involved in managing the virus is extremely complex.
California’s long and complicated process of shutting down, then lifting and reimposing restrictions (but only in some places) is testament to the difficulty of this task.
[What to know about the restrictions in place right now.]
But Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, associate dean of population health and health equity at UC San Francisco’s School of Medicine, told me that the fact that Californians have been subjected to varying restriction levels for about 10 months only makes the situation difficult for the state. now more annoying.
As cases have started to rise again, policymakers have taken incremental action to try to curb the alarming spread, rather than implementing a more restrictive statewide order like the one in March.
“They tried to keep things open because of economic need, which unfortunately makes the message more difficult,” she said. “Because now we are really in crisis.”
Dr Bibbins-Domingo highlighted another challenge facing the state, which she described as the “false dichotomy” of reviving the declining economy and protecting public health.
Communities with higher concentrations of low-wage essential workers, who showed up for their jobs with little state or federal support, are disproportionately affected by the latest wave, as they have since been. months.
“The communities most devastated by the pandemic are also the most devastated by the economic crisis,” she said. Communities where the virus spreads will have to remain under restrictions longer, inevitably prolonging their economic recovery.
Either way, Dr Bibbins-Domingo said the impulse to “play the blame game” and find distinct sources of transmission – Outdoor dining? Factories? Thanksgiving dinner tables? – is not productive.
“We don’t have the data to determine with any precision if it’s this or that,” she said. “It also misses the point that once the transmission goes up as high as it is, we just have to lock up.
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The situation in California, despite the initial restrictions, has become an edifying story. [The New York Times]
Resistance to new orders is testing the state and county of Los Angeles’ abstinence approach to gatherings. Experts say harm reduction could be better. [The Los Angeles Times]
State lawmakers began their session on Capitol Hill, despite concerns about the virus. [The Sacramento Bee]
Los Angeles Unified School District Campus which had been allowed to partially reopen will close, the district said. It is a local decision; the latest stay-at-home orders do not affect schools. [LAist]
Foster Farms to close facility in Fresno after nearly 200 workers, they tested positive. [CalMatters]
Also on Monday, the governor announced the deployment of a new app called CA Notify that will alert users if they may have been exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. It’s voluntary, which means it might not be as effective as you might hope, but it will be available from Thursday. [CA Notify]
Here’s what else to know today
New Los Angeles Attorney George Gascón was sworn in on Monday and immediately announced promised reforms, such as eliminating the cash bond. [KABC]
Learn more about the race between Mr. Gascón and the incumbent, Jackie Lacey. [The New York Times]
If you missed it, protesters marched outside his home in an attempt to prevent the mayor from surrendering to Biden’s administration. [The Los Angeles Times]
The choice of Attorney General Xavier Becerra for leading the Department of Health and Human Services has attracted praise from environmental justice organizations. [The New York Times]
Southern California Edison cut power to some 200,000 customers and said it plans to cut power to more like dangerous winds from Santa Ana blew through the area. [KTLA]
In a world where streaming replaces box office numbers, stars – whose salary is often tied to ticket sales – always want their money. [The New York Times]
Natalie Desselle, the comedic heart of “BAPS” and “Eve”, has passed away Monday at his home in Los Angeles. [The New York Times]
And finally …
Some questions about the monoliths have been answered – at least some of those regarding two monoliths spotted in California. But not all the questions. And that might be OK. Enjoy the mystery.
California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. PT on weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Have you been forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read each edition online here.
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.