Coronavirus at ‘critical juncture’ as hospitalizations skyrocket

The number of people hospitalized with coronavirus in California has increased 56% in the past two weeks, an alarming sign of how fast COVID-19 is spreading and the intense pressure it is exerting on the state’s medical infrastructure.

Coronavirus cases have increased in recent weeks, reaching four daily records in the past two weeks and causing officials to order the closure of indoor restaurants and bars in much of the state. There is growing concern over the weekend of July 4 that officials fear social gatherings could spark even more outbreaks.

The number of people hospitalized with confirmed coronavirus infection reached 5,196 on Tuesday across the state. Just a week ago, there were 4,047 people in hospitals, and a week before that, there were 3,337.

Some counties, including San Bernardino and Riverside, say their hospitals are close to augmentation capacity, and officials were prepared to open additional overflow facilities as more patients need care.

Los Angeles County has not overshadowed its highest daily total of COVID-19 confirmed hospitalizations, which peaked on April 28 with 1,962 patients but is approaching: On Tuesday, there were 1,893 patients with confirmed infections in the Los Angeles County Hospitals; two weeks earlier, there were 1,429.

“Los Angeles County is really at a critical juncture in the pandemic,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of public health for Los Angeles County.

Coronavirus testing is becoming a growing challenge in Los Angeles and beyond.

As of Wednesday, no appointments were available at county or city-administered test sites. Authorities had warned that testing would be limited this week due to the upcoming holiday weekend, but in recent weeks, getting tested has already proven to be a challenge. Last week, the appointment slots filled up amid continuing calls from officials for residents to get tested.

Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of health services for Los Angeles County, said Wednesday that the demand for testing has increased and more spaces will be added on Friday. The county plans to expand the tests to the areas most affected by the virus, and Ghaly said people who have symptoms, work in high-risk settings, or have come in contact with someone who is known to be positive are those who most need testing. .

If someone experiencing any of these factors cannot be tested through county or city-run sites, Ghaly encouraged them not to wait and contact their medical provider.

“This is a moment of universal precaution,” he said.

In the past seven days, 6.4% of coronavirus tests returned confirming infections in California; A week ago, only 5.6% of tests tested positive; And the week before that, 4.6% of tests confirmed infections.

The rate at which coronavirus tests tested positive was even higher in Los Angeles County; It is now at 8.4%, compared to 4.6% at the end of May.

Los Angeles County officials announced an additional 32 coronavirus-related deaths and more than 1,700 new cases Wednesday for the fourth consecutive day. In a change in gym policy, staff and customers at fitness facilities will now be required to wear gloves and facial covers at all times.

Since various case groups have been linked to meetings, officials have encouraged people not to congregate in crowded or confined settings and not to meet with people outside their home over the holiday weekend.

Despite the fact that people ignore the order and the county meeting, Ferrer said there are no immediate plans to offer guidance on how people can more safely mix with people outside their homes in so-called social bubbles, as it has been done in some Northern California countries. communities

That said, Ferrer added that county officials are preparing guidance documents for when people can safely mix again. But at this point, officials are focusing on the need for people to minimize exposure.

“Unfortunately, our numbers, actually, right now, really guarantee that we don’t get into these expanded bubbles,” said Ferrer. “I would really encourage people to return to the bubble of their home, at least for the next two weeks. We really are at a crucial point. “

She added: “If we can’t find a way to minimize our exposures … we will continue to see the increase in cases. We have to do something right now to get back to more level ground. “

In Orange County, officials announced that the bars will be forced to close again starting at midnight Thursday.

But there is still debate about how many beaches will open during the weekend of July 4. Laguna Beach officials voted Tuesday to close the city-operated beaches. The city had previously canceled its fireworks show in an effort to reduce crowds, but took the issue a step further afterward. Los Angeles County closed its beaches and residents began to express concern about a possible influx of bathers.

Newport Beach is closing its beaches on July 4 after two lifeguards tested positive for COVID-19. Twenty-three colleagues are in quarantine. One of them shows symptoms and has not yet been tested. Seal Beach also ordered the closure of its beach and related facilities. Huntington Beach was still deciding whether to keep its shores open.

Ventura County also closed beaches for the holidays.

Times Community News reporter Hillary Davis contributed to this report.