California breaks ICU hospitalization record for 5th straight day

The remaining intensive care capacity of California hospitals shrank even more Tuesday, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a COVID-19 press conference.

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As of Tuesday, ICU capacity in each region was:


  • Northern California, ICU capacity at 25%: Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, Trinity

  • Bay Area, ICU capacity at 24.5%: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma

  • Greater Sacramento, ICU capacity at 18.8%: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Colusa, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Sierra, Sutter, Yolo, Yuba

  • San Joaquin Valley, ICU capacity at 5.6%: Calaveras, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare, Tuolumne

  • Southern California, ICU capacity at 10.1%: Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura


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When a region's remaining ICU capacity drops below 15%, they have to abide by the regional stay-at-home order. So far, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California are under stay-at-home orders, as well as five counties in the Bay Area that joined voluntarily.

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"We can only spread and stretch our ICU capacity -- our nurses, our physicians, our respiratory therapists, or other health care personnel -- so far before we're not able to deliver the kind of care Californians have come to expect," said Ghaly. "The goal of saving lives becomes threatened when that system isn't as robust and as strong as it can be."

The number of people hospitalized in intensive care around California reached a new record Tuesday at 2,417 patients. It's the fifth straight day that California has broken its own record on this metric. Before Dec. 3, the last record was set on July 21 with 2,058 patients.

The number of people hospitalized overall was 10,567 -- also a record.

The testing positivity rate, or the percentage of people who get a COVID-19 test and end up positive, is about 10%.

When a region is placed under a stay-at-home order, nearly all non-essential businesses have to shut down. Restaurants have to revert to takeout only and retail stores have to drop capacity to 20%.

Ghaly faced several questions on how these decisions were made sector-by-sector, why something like outdoor dining was shut down while indoor shopping is still allowed. He said the state's intent is to encourage people to stay home whenever possible, not to "comment on the relative safety" of one sector or another.

"Right now, we're seeing such high levels of transmission that almost every activity that can be done differently, and keep us at our homes not mixing with others, is safer. Those are going to be the tools that help us get this under control," said Ghaly.
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