The regional stay-at-home order has been extended indefinitely for two of California's regions, Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced Tuesday.
When remaining intensive care capacity drops below 15%, a region is put under modified lockdown. The stay-at-home order remains in place for at least three weeks.
Ghaly said four-week projections for both regions show demand exceeding ICU capacity, which means the stay-at-home order will remain in effect. The order will be lifted when "ICU projections are above or equal to 15%."
The Greater Sacramento area and the Bay Area region are eligible to exit the order as soon as Jan. 1 and Jan. 8, respectively, if ICU capacity improves. However, their orders could also be extended if ICU capacity is below 15%.
Northern California is the only region not under a stay-at-home order.
The remaining ICU capacity in each region, as of Tuesday, are:
- Northern California: 27.9%
- Bay Area: 10.4%
- Greater Sacramento: 19.1%
- San Joaquin Valley: 0%
- Southern California: 0%
Ghaly said many hospitals around California are already being "stretched to provide the kind of care we want," comparing the situation to a rubber band.
"You can certainly stretch rubber bands pretty far -- as we are pushing our hospitals pretty far -- but we know that the stretch has a limit before it breaks," Ghaly said.
In most -- but not all -- California counties, the rate of increasing hospitalizations is starting to plateau, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday. However, he's concerned we'll see another spike in a few weeks due to gatherings and travel around the holidays.
He pointed to cellphone data and images of full airplanes over the past week as signs of what's to come.
"That only suggests that we are going to see an increase in cases across this country, not just in the state of California, as it relates to these travel advisories that were not heeded clearly by everybody," Newsom said.
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The state has opened several alternative care sites to help decompress overloaded hospitals. As of Monday, 67 patients are being treated at these sites.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.