Coronavirus cases in California soar past 5,000 as hospitals fill up

Tribune Content Agency

LOS ANGELES — Coronavirus cases in California surged past 5,000 — with 121 deaths — as ICU hospital beds began filling up with patients, and officials tried to enforce unprecedented social distancing measures they believe are the state’s best chance to slow the spread of the virus.

Los Angeles County has seen 32 deaths and more than 1,818 cases; Santa Clara County, the second hardest-hit county in the state, has reported 25 deaths and 591 cases.

On a sunny Southern California weekend, beaches, hiking trials, recreation airs and many streets were empty amid calls for people to stay in their home except for essential trips and exercise in their neighborhoods. Police were out in force, turning away people trying to used closed facilities.

Most beaches, trails, recreation facilities and nonessential businesses were closed because of the state and local orders, and many obeyed.

A Ventura County Sheriff’s Department cruiser could be seen guarding the entrance to a popular trail in Wildwood Regional Park in Thousand Oaks, upon which hundreds of hikers and families descended on Saturday. In Venice, a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter was seen circling a skate park, announcing that people who did not leave the area would be “arrested for trespassing.”

There were signs Saturday that hospitals were beginning to see the coronavirus strain.

The number of coronavirus patients in California’s intensive care unit beds doubled overnight, rising from 200 on Friday to 410 on Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

The number of hospitalized patients testing positive for the coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease known as COVID-19 rose by 38.6% — from 746 on Friday to 1,034 on Saturday, Newsom said.

“We’re blessed that we’re just at 410, devastating for the individuals there and their family members and loved ones,” Newsom said at a press conference in Sunnyvale on Saturday. “But by comparison and contrast to other parts of this country, that number seems relatively modest.”

A Los Angeles Times data analysis found that California has 7,200 intensive-care beds across more than 365 hospitals. In total, the state has more than 70,000 beds. The Times data analysis shows roughly one intensive-care bed for every 5,500 people in California.

About half of California’s total intensive-care beds — 3,700 — are in the five-county area around Los Angeles, according to data from 2018, the most recent available. In the nine-county Bay Area, there are roughly 1,400 ICU beds for a population of 7.6 million people.

Intensive-care beds allow for a higher level of treatment than regular beds, a level of care some COVID-19 patients require. Those unable to breathe properly may need a breathing tube inserted into their throat and to be hooked up to a ventilator, which physically pushes oxygen into the lungs.

In San Bernardino County, 12 people at a Yucaipa nursing facility tested positive for the virus Saturday after a resident of the facility died of COVID-19 earlier in the week, county health officials said. At least one of the people who tested positive worked at the facility, which officials did not immediately name.

The 89-year-old woman had underlying health conditions and died Thursday, officials said.

In addition, a resident of a second Yucaipa nursing facility has symptoms of the illness, officials said. County public health staffers are working with both facilities to expedite testing of all residents and employees, they said.

“This is the first instance we have had in our county of a concentrated COVID-19 outbreak,” said Erin Gustafson, acting county health officer, in a statement. “The county will do everything within its ability and authority to minimize the tragedy this pandemic has the potential to create in our communities.”

The L.A. County Department of Public Health is monitoring 14 institutional facilities that have reported one or more confirmed cases of the virus among residents and staff, including three extended-care homes that have reported three or more cases, officials said Friday.


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