LOS ANGELES — The California death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 133, with officials warning of tough weeks ahead as the number of confirmed cases of the virus continues to surge.
The latest death was reported Monday morning by San Francisco’s Department of Public Health. Details about the individual who died were not immediately available.
There are currently more than 6,400 confirmed cases of the virus in the state. Experts say California will likely continue to see a rise in new cases and deaths for the next few weeks as testing capacity increases but hope that the social distancing measures imposed can slow the spread.
The biggest immediate concern is for hospitals, which risk being overwhelmed by a growing number of sick patients.
The number of COVID-19 patients in California’s intensive-care beds doubled overnight, from 200 on Friday to 410 on Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said. And the number of hospitalized patients testing positive for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, rose by 38.6% — from 746 on Friday to 1,034 on Saturday, he 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 news 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 had 7,200 intensive-care beds across more than 365 hospitals. In total, the state has more than 70,000 beds. There is roughly one intensive-care bed for every 5,500 people in California, Times data shows.
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 and to be hooked up to a ventilator, which physically pushes oxygen into the lungs.
Although a system overload remained the fear, one projection from University of Washington epidemiologists suggested that California’s 9-day-old stay-at-home order might keep the hospital strain below catastrophic levels. And Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, a UCLA epidemiologist, said Friday that after a considerable uptick in cases, “I think we should be able to see some leveling off of those numbers in a couple of weeks because of the physical distancing measures.”
University of California, Berkeley biostatistics professor Nicholas Jewell says California will soon learn whether its limits on work and public movement have paid dividends.
Because of a lag time of as much as two weeks between transmission of the illness and the onset of symptoms, gauging the benefits of physical distancing takes time. With California’s stay-at-home order less than 2 weeks old, people reporting the illness may have been infected prior to the limitations.
“We need another week or two to really tell if California’s fairly quick shelter in place did make a difference,” Jewell said. “It has the potential to make a huge difference. I know that mathematically … but I don’t know that with any degree of certainty.”
Authorities were out in force over the weekend to make sure people were staying away from beaches, parks and hiking trails that were recently closed as part of unprecedented restrictions on public movements to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Many people obeyed the closures. One man, however, received a $1,000 citation for surfing in Manhattan Beach on Saturday after he ignored numerous warnings by police and lifeguards cautioning him not to go in the water.
A Ventura County Sheriff’s Department cruiser could be seen guarding the entrance to a popular trail in Wildwood Regional Park in Thousand Oaks, where hundreds of hikers and families descended 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.”
Los Angeles County recorded five more coronavirus deaths on Sunday, bringing the total to 37. The county now has at least 2,100 confirmed cases, including more than 300 reported Sunday.
On Sunday, officials confirmed that two San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department deputies and two firefighters had tested positive for COVID-19. San Bernardino County had recorded 111 cases of the virus and three deaths as of Monday morning. In Orange County, 431 cases of the virus have been reported, including four who died.
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