Coronavirus CA: Hospital, ICU totals on sharp rise

California’s coronavirus surge continues to intensify, and the impact on hospitals is becoming more severe

California’s coronavirus surge continues to intensify, and the impact on hospitals is becoming more severe by the day. The state has suffered a net increase of 1,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in just the past week.

The California Department of Public Health on Tuesday reported 4,118 lab-confirmed cases in hospital beds, the first time the state has exceeded 4,000 since Aug. 28.

Intensive care unit capacity is the primary concern for hospital systems. Out of the 4,118 hospitalized with coronavirus, 1,086 were in ICUs.

The state said 2,266 staffed ICU beds still remained available around the state as of Tuesday. But ICU cases are continuing to grow at an alarming rate. In two weeks, the concurrent ICU total for COVID-19 has increased by more than 300, a 39% statewide spike.

Hospitalization rates have shown no sign yet of slowing down — on the contrary, both ICU and overall hospital bed totals for patients with COVID-19 appear to be ratcheting up. The latter increased by a net of 266 between Monday and Tuesday’s updates; only a handful of days from the peak of California’s summer surge saw bigger one-day jumps.

What’s even more troubling is that increases in hospitalizations typically lag behind spikes of new cases by a couple of weeks. In keeping with that trend, California’s surge in infections started about a month ago, in mid-October, and hospital totals started to elevate around late October.

And California’s curve for new infections has grown even steeper since the end of October. The state was reporting a two-week average of about 4,300 daily cases as of Nov. 1. On Tuesday, with that figure having increased every single day for the past month, the state is averaging nearly 7,400 new cases per day.

In other words, if the correlating link between new cases and hospitalizations holds true, the surge in patient admissions is on track to grow even more substantial through early December and perhaps beyond.

State and local health officials have attributed the recent surge primarily to private gatherings in which people have become too lax around friends and family members in social distancing and face covering protocols. They also pointed to Halloween celebrations as problematic, and many are now frantically warning people not to hold multi-household Thanksgiving gatherings.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and state health officials also announced Monday that they were pulling the “emergency brake,” widely rolling back business openings in the vast majority of California as an urgent measure to combat the erupting spread of new cases before it overwhelms the health care system.

Now, more than 94% of the state by population is in the strictest “purple” tier, which denotes “widespread” COVID-19 activity, and means things like restaurant dining, church worship, gyms and movie theaters must close, or stay closed, for indoor activity.

“Every day matters and every decision matters,” state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a statement. “Personal decisions are critical, and I am imploring every Californian to stay home if they can, wear a mask whenever they leave their homes, limit mixing, practice physical distancing and wash their hands.”

The explosion of coronavirus hospitalizations is remarkably widespread, not centralized to any one part of the state, as Newsom alluded to in a Monday news conference.

About 96% of the state’s hospital total as of Tuesday came from the top 25 counties, each of which had at least 20 COVID-19 patients, CDPH data show.

Of those counties, 22 of the 25 have had their hospitalization figure grow more than 40% since Nov. 1. Two of them — Imperial and San Mateo — had it grow about 30%. Only San Francisco, an urban center that has been lauded by health experts for its pandemic response, has had a negligible increase this month, a net increase of just one patient.

Seven of the hardest-hit counties — Butte, Kings, Merced, Placer, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Shasta — have had their total more than double since the start of November, the latest CDPH data from Tuesday show.

One small upside is that health care workers entered the autumn surge with more experience and knowledge about the novel disease than they did in the earlier months of the pandemic. Doctors and nurses know now about techniques like placing patients on their stomachs to help with breathing.

More than 1,037,000 Californians have tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 18,299 have died of the disease, CDPH said Tuesday morning. The state officially surpassed 1 million cases on Saturday.

Test positivity rate as a 14-day average has climbed to 4.7%, up from 3.2% in the last two weeks. In the past week, 5.2% of diagnostic tests have returned positive in California. These rates indicate that true spread of the virus is rapidly increasing; the surging case rates are not simply a result of heightened testing capacity.

Sacramento area by the numbers: Nearly 700 dead

The six-county Sacramento region has combined for at least 694 COVID-19 deaths and more than 46,000 total confirmed cases during the ongoing health crisis, which has now impacted California for more than eight months.

All six counties are in the purple tier after Monday’s emergency demotions by the state.

Sacramento County has recorded 31,387 lab-positive coronavirus cases and 533 resident deaths from the virus. The county added a record-high 496 new cases last Thursday. Officials reported 1,162 for the period of Saturday through Monday, which is an average of 387 per day, followed by 388 on Tuesday.

The city of Sacramento stands on the brink of 300 coronavirus deaths, increasing to 298 with Tuesday’s daily update.

Hospitalizations are soaring as well. There were 191 patients hospitalized with coronavirus in Sacramento County as of Tuesday, up 19 from Monday. The county had 48 patients in ICUs, same as Monday. Both match the county’s highest figures since early September.

Ten deaths have now been confirmed for the first 10 days of November. The county’s October death toll stands at 54.

Yolo County has reported 3,892 total infections and 70 deaths from COVID-19, reporting six new deaths since last Thursday, including two Monday. The county added 29 cases on Tuesday, following 49 on Monday and 56 on Sunday.

Yolo had 14 patients in hospitals with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, down one from Monday, but eight are now in ICUs, an increase of two.

Placer County has reported 5,489 cases during the pandemic, adding 263 for Saturday through Monday, or about 88 a day in that period, followed by 92 on Tuesday.

Placer reported one additional death Monday for 64 all-time. The county has reported five fatalities since Thursday.

Placer reported a massive spike in hospitalized cases: The county says it has 71 patients in hospital beds with confirmed coronavirus as of Tuesday, with 66 of them (93%) in hospitals specifically “because of COVID.” This latter grouping has surged more than 60% since last Friday. Eight are now in ICUs, seven of them being treated specifically for the disease. State data as of Tuesday showed 68 hospitalized and nine in ICUs in Placer County.

El Dorado County is one of a few California counties with a single-digit death toll, with just four fatalities since the start of the pandemic.

But on Tuesday, El Dorado smashed a new daily case record, breaking it for the third time in under a week. Health officials reported 97 new cases Tuesday, breaking Friday’s record of 37, which broke Thursday’s of 32. The county also reported 64 cases for the period of Saturday through Monday. The county has now reported 1,798 since the start of the pandemic.

El Dorado has five hospitalized COVID-19 patients as of Tuesday, all in ICUs, up from three on Monday.

Sutter County health officials have reported a total of 2,456 people positive for coronavirus and 13 deaths. The county added 80 new cases Monday, a new daily record, and one additional fatality. The health office reported 54 more on Tuesday.

The past five days, Friday to Tuesday, have marked Sutter County’s five highest daily infection totals of the pandemic.

Fourteen people infected with COVID-19 were hospitalized as of Tuesday, including two in intensive care, according to county health officials. The hospitalization total has nearly tripled from the five reported Friday.

Yuba County officials have reported a total of 1,643 COVID-19 infections and 10 deaths. The county reported 36 new infections Sunday, 20 on Monday and 28 on Tuesday. Yuba had six patients infected with COVID-19 hospitalized, with one in an ICU, as of Tuesday.

US nears quarter-million deaths

The global death toll for coronavirus is marching toward 1,350,000. The United States continues to make up close to one-fifth of that total, entering Wednesday just several hundred shy of 250,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. also accounts for about a fifth of the worldwide infection total, at more than 11.3 million of 55.8 million, according to Johns Hopkins. The nation added nearly 162,000 on Tuesday as its massive third surge continues.

After the U.S. by death toll are Brazil at nearly 167,000, India at about 131,000, Mexico at 99,000 and the United Kingdom at nearly 53,000. Italy and France have each reported more than 46,000 deaths, while Iran is closing in on 43,000 and Spain is near 42,000.

Three South American nations are after that, with Argentina, Peru and Colombia each reporting between about 34,000 and 36,000 deaths. Another 34,000 have died in Russia, according to Johns Hopkins, and South Africa recently surpassed 20,000.

By infections, 10 countries aside from the U.S. have reported more than 1 million cases. India is approaching 9 million, Brazil is close to 6 million, France recently surpassed 2 million and Russia is close to 2 million. Over 1.5 million have tested positive in Spain, followed by 1.4 million in the United Kingdom, 1.3 million in Argentina and over 1.2 million in each of Italy and Colombia. Mexico is the most recent to reach the million mark.

The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, Dale Kasler and Andrew Sheeler contributed to this story.

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Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.

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