MORAGA, Calif .– Most of California was stranded on Monday as two large areas, southern California and the highly agricultural San Joaquin Valley, reached a shortage of hospital beds severe enough to trigger further restrictions imposed by the state to slow the spread of the disease. coronavirus.
California averages 21,000 new known cases per day, twice as many as the state was reporting at its worst time this summer and by far at its highest level in the pandemic.
Some of the underlying reasons for the rise of the state resonate with the nation as a whole. The idea that a state government could control the movements of 40 million people – a radical idea when California became the first state to introduce a lockdown in March – was perhaps optimistic in a society that grants so much importance to personal freedom.
“What we saw was that these policies were either insufficiently stringent, or insufficiently enforced, or insufficiently enforced to make a difference with transmission,” said Dr. George Rutherford, epidemiologist at the University of California at San Francisco. .
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As the United States neared 15 million coronavirus cases and 300,000 deaths, other states struggled to contain the spiraling health crisis. Daily death reports on Monday surpassed the country’s highest seven-day average of the pandemic, reaching more than 2,232, the highest record, since April.
In New York City, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday announced new criteria to roll back the state’s reopening and reintroduce region-specific closure restrictions.
The New York State Department of Health will use hospitalization rates as cutoffs for shutdown and to restrict dining indoors, which Cuomo said could be banned in New York as of Monday. “If you’re going to overwhelm the hospital system, then we have no choice but to go shut down,” he said.
With a stockpile of half a billion face masks and months of relatively strict social distancing warrants, California has ranked among the most aggressive states in the fight against the coronavirus. Yet the virulence of the pandemic, in which the virus exploits the slightest misstep, has begun to overwhelm the wealthiest and most populous state in America.
In San Diego, nine of 112 intensive care beds are unoccupied at an academic medical center, illustrating an alarming trend in southern California. More than 10,000 Covid-19 patients are now hospitalized in the state, more than 70% more than two weeks ago.
The fact that a state where masks are widely accepted finds itself in such a dire situation is puzzling for residents, who felt they were ahead of parts of the country who were resisting advice from public health officials. That the virus has skyrocketed is a cautionary tale, a sign that California has let its guard down.
“You go from thinking, like, ‘Oh, I don’t know anyone who has it’ to in the blink of an eye, everyone you know has it and you have it,” said Janet Rodriguez, a resident of Pico. Rivera, outside Los Angeles, who believed she was infected during an outdoor meal with friends.
Over the past few months, even though public health experts and politicians have urged people to stay vigilant, not everyone agreed, Dr Rutherford said. The Thanksgiving trip, he said, was a clear example.
“Nationally, 2.8 million people typically travel on Thanksgiving and that number had fallen to one million this year. It’s a million too many. So you can see people are trying, but it’s just not enough.
Already, he said, an acceleration of cases was observed from this period.
In California, the dominant story throughout the pandemic has been that of a state that, because of its population, has a large number of cases. Per capita, California has fewer cases than 40 other states, but its overall numbers are shocking: 1.3 million and more.
Northern California has managed to keep case and death rates very low compared to other parts of the country. San Francisco has reported 164 coronavirus-related deaths.
But even with per capita case totals in San Francisco that are one-fifth the level of states such as North Dakota or South Dakota, city officials are feeling the strain of the current outbreak. A month ago, the city’s contact tracers, whose job it is to connect with everyone an infected person may have come in contact with, were reaching 90% of contacts. Now they are calling closer to 70%.
And because California has fewer hospital beds per capita than all but two of the states, it takes fewer to overwhelm the state’s health infrastructure.
Even before the new restrictions took effect in parts of the state on Monday, counties in the San Francisco Bay Area announced last week that they would voluntarily take the new limits.
The restrictions require the closure of indoor restaurants, playgrounds, hair and nail salons, zoos and wineries. Relatively few schools with in-person classes are allowed to remain open, and malls and supermarkets can accommodate customers but must operate at a maximum capacity of 20%.
“It’s easy to say that a lockdown is the right thing to do, but the lockdown is going to affect personal care salons, 20% sells, zoos are closed,” Chief Medical Officer Dr Chris Longhurst said assistant to the University of California, San Diego, Medical Center, where 8% of intensive care beds remain available. “Will it make a difference? It’s hard to know for sure.
Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday that the state was rolling out a new app, developed in partnership with Google and Apple, to help track and slow the spread in the state. The app allows those who choose to participate to be notified if they have potentially been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Other parts of the world have used such technology to track the virus, but critics have suggested the California effort was limited, coming months after the pandemic began, and offered only on a voluntary basis to residents who choose to participate.
Mr Newsom and other California executives have often said the fate of the virus depends on individual decision-making.
For Ms. Rodriguez, the Pico Rivera resident, her habits have changed over the months, she said. As California closed early in March, it was extremely cautious and stopped seeing friends and extended family, she said.
But over the months, Ms. Rodriguez became restless. She started taking outdoor trips that she thought were harmless: hiking with her friends while wearing a mask, and riding a bike to visit her older sister’s family on their porch.
“Slowly, we started to feel more comfortable with each other,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “One story I will keep telling myself is that I don’t know anyone who has fallen ill.”
Her social group – friends with whom she spent time without a mask – gradually grew to 10. And on her 28th birthday, in November, Ms. Rodriguez went out for lunch with three friends, one of whom tested negative this past. that day.
But the friend then tested positive, Ms Rodriguez said, and soon Ms Rodriguez had headaches and lost her senses of smell and taste.
Ms Rodriguez tested positive, as did Ms Rodriguez’s father, who is diabetic. The two have mostly recovered although Ms. Rodriguez still struggles to taste the food.
For Ms. Rodriguez, it was apparently a restaurant meal. Others reported other sources of their infections: trips to the gym, work in food processing plants, family reunions.
Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, associate dean of population health and health equity at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, described an impulse to “play the blame game” and to find distinct sources of propagation. But she said it wasn’t particularly productive at the moment.
“We don’t have the data to accurately determine if it’s this or that,” Dr. Bibbins-Domingo said. “It also misses the point that once the transmission goes up as high as it is, we just have to lock up.
Thomas fuller reported from Moraga, Calif., Jill cowan from Los Angeles, and Lucy tompkins from New York. Mitch smith contributed to the Chicago report, and Louis keene from Los Angeles.