S.E. Williams | Executive Editor
BREAKING NEWS UPDATE SATURDAY, DEC. 5 @ 2:30 p.m.:
Message from the Editor: Early Saturday morning the Southern California Region which includes Riverside and San Bernardino Counties fell to 13.1% ICU capacity (below the 15% threshold established by the state) from a high of 20.6% on Friday. As a result, effective Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020 all of the Southern California Region will be under a Stay-at-Home order for the next three weeks.
On Nov. 30, the White House Coronavirus Task Force issued a dire warning to public health officials stating the COVID risk to all Americans had reached an historic high. Comparing today’s COVID impact to what the nation experienced after Memorial Day, which is considered the summer surge, when the nation saw fewer than 25,000 new cases per day.
Today, by comparison, the nation is recording more than 180,000 cases per day.
“We are in a very dangerous place due to the current, extremely high COVID baseline and limited hospital capacity; a further post-Thanksgiving surge will compromise COVID patient care, as well as medical care overall,” declared the Task Force.
The surge is imminent.
Rapid growth in the spread of COVID-19 has increased hospitalizations and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions. With 100 California citizens now dying from the coronavirus every day, on Thursday, Dec. 3, California Governor Gavin Newsom laid the groundwork for a new stay-at-home order that could soon impact Riverside, San Bernardino and most, if not all, counties across the state.
The framework for the order, once activated, is expected to continue for at least three weeks.
During a press conference on Thursday the governor expressed concern the statewide hospital system will become overwhelmed using as a litmus test to trigger a stay-at-home order whether a region is showing 15% or less ICU capacity. Governor Newsom’s order divides the state into five separate districts (see map) for such determination.
Riverside and San Bernardino Counties are considered part of the Southern California District, which also includes Imperial, Inyo, Mono, Orange, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The Southern California District’s ICU capacity as of Friday, Dec. 4 was 20.6%. The other districts recorded the following percentages—Bay Area 25.4%; Greater Sacramento 22%; Northern California 18.6%; and San Joaquin Valley 19.7%.
On Thursday, Riverside County reported a record-breaking, 649 COVID-19 patients in area hospitals, an increase of 21 patients over Wednesday, with 124 patients in ICU; and according to San Bernardino County public health, the county was already at 85% of its hospital capacity on Thursday.
Once the ICU capacity falls below 15% for the Southern California District the following programs and services will be impacted: New restrictions will require nonessential businesses to close including bars wineries, hair salons, etc.; restaurants will be restricted to take-out, pick-up and delivery only; retail stores will be limited to 20% capacity; hotels and motels will be restricted except for critical infrastructure support.
Other closures will include indoor and outdoor playgrounds, indoor recreational facilities, family entertainment centers, museums, zoos and aquariums, youth sports, campgrounds (for overnight stays) and non-essential travel will be banned.
Services not impacted by the order include doctors and dentists who can continue to see patients; schools with waivers for in-person instruction can continue to operate; outdoor recreation facilities can remain open.
San Bernardino Public Health Director Corwin Porter explained the new order was necessary due to the current circumstances and noted the current impact of the coronavirus is worse today than it was in April.
“The key objective is to keep our hospitals and ICU units from being overrun with new cases,” he advised.
Addressing concerns over how staying home can leave people feeling isolated and impact one’s mental health, Porter encouraged residents to spend time outside and engage in some type of exercise.
On Friday, Dec. 4, 2020 the Bay Area became the first district to implement the new stay-at-home order even though its intensive care capacity remained above 15%. The order became effective Sunday, Dec. 6.
S.E. Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News.