SoCal ICU capacity drops to 0.5%; L.A. County announces highest number of single-day deaths due to COVID-19

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The Southern California region, which includes Los Angeles County, reached 0.5% intensive care unit availability on Wednesday as the county reported record numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

While Northern California remains the only region above the state’s 15% ICU bed threshold, Southern California is joined by the Bay Area, Greater Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley in being below the state threshold. 

“As our hospitals continue to fill up, the reality is that the vaccine will not save us from the current COVID-19 surge,” said Supervisor Hilda Solis during a press conference on Wednesday. “Our hope must be balanced with vigilance.” 

Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said the number of hospitalizations jumped from 791 on Nov. 1 to 4,656 patients that were hospitalized as of Wednesday. 

“The sad reality is that the overwhelming increase in COVID-19 patients at hospitals today reflects our case numbers two weeks ago, when the average daily number of cases was about 6,300, with our average daily cases this past week increasing to over now 12,000,” said Ferrer. “The number of COVID-19-positive individuals that will need hospital care will just keep increasing.”

Ferrer said that every hour, two people are dying from the virus in Los Angeles County, and, excluding Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health departments, 138 have died from COVID-19 complications in the past day, which is the highest number of daily deaths since the onset of the pandemic. This brings the total number of deaths in L.A. County to 8,568.  

The total number of new cases for the county Wednesday was 22,422 and this number does include a backlog of 7,000 cases. The total number of cases countywide, including Long Beach and Pasadena, is 566,005 to date, and 21% of those now in the hospital due to COVID-19 are in the ICU. 

“These are nonetheless extraordinary numbers, and they represent transmission that continues to be out of control,” said Ferrer.

If a county drops below the ICU capacity threshold, it is required to implement a stay-at-home order immediately and the order “prohibit private gatherings of any size, close sector operations except for critical infrastructure and retail, and require 100% masking and physical distancing in all others.”

Ferrer called the numbers “overwhelming” and said county officials were seeing “devastating increase in hospitalizations and deaths.” 

“We’re experiencing an explosive and very deadly surge, and there’s urgency in our requests that everyone do all that’s in their power to slow transmission and prevent additional suffering,” said Ferrer. “Hospital capacity is decreasing to alarming levels and our health care workings are pushed to the limits.”

Once triggered, the state orders remain in effect for at least three weeks. After that period, they will be lifted when a region’s projected ICU capacity meets or exceeds 15%. This will be assessed on a weekly basis after the initial three-week period. The initial three-week period for Southern California ends Dec. 27, so Dec. 28 is the soonest the order could be lifted.

County, state and Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital officials reported the following updates as of Wednesday:

Southern California available ICU capacity: 0.5%

Hospitalizations at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital as of Dec. 16: 82, with 512 discharged since the onset of the pandemic.

COVID-19 cases reported in the Santa Clarita Valley in the past 24 hours: 368, of which 290 came from the city of Santa Clarita.

Total COVID-19 cases in the SCV: 12,838

Total COVID-19 deaths in the SCV: 94, including one death reported by Henry Mayo Wednesday.

The numbers of SCV cases, including all area health care providers’ daily figures and those at Pitchess Detention Center, broken down into region, are as follows:

City of Santa Clarita: 8,723

Unincorporated – Acton: 188

Unincorporated – Agua Dulce: 89

Unincorporated – Bouquet Canyon: 18

Unincorporated – Canyon Country: 368

Unincorporated – Castaic: 2,623 (majority of Castaic cases come from Pitchess Detention Center, exact number unavailable)

Unincorporated – Lake Hughes: 18

Unincorporated – Newhall: 50

Unincorporated – Placerita Canyon: 0

Unincorporated – San Francisquito Canyon/Bouquet Canyon: 4

Unincorporated – Sand Canyon: 8

Unincorporated – Saugus: 59

Unincorporated – Saugus/Canyon Country: 18

Unincorporated – Stevenson Ranch: 449

Unincorporated – Val Verde: 143

Unincorporated – Valencia: 80
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