SUNITA SOHRABJI | Ethnic Media Services
Photo Caption: California Governor Gavin Newsom

Hospitalizations from COVID-19 infections in California have risen dramatically in the past 14 days, even prior to the expected post-holiday surge.

COVID infections in California have increased 5.5 percent over the past 14 days: 21,747 people have been hospitalized, and 4,854 people are currently in intensive care units, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California’s Health and Human Services department at a briefing Jan. 12. The state that day crossed a grim milestone of 30,000 COVID-related deaths.

Ghaly said he was optimistic about the numbers: “There is some hope here,” he said, noting that the numbers were lower than expected.

But he cautioned that a post-holiday surge has yet to hit, and expects that the state will start to see the ramifications of holiday gatherings beginning Jan. 15.

Almost all counties in the state are in the high “purple tier,” which indicates widespread levels of infection. Only Trinity County has moved from purple to red, while Humboldt County has backtracked from red to purple.

The focus of the state’s strategy has been Southern California, where hospitals have been overwhelmed by the magnitude of the crisis and currently have no ICU capacity. Trucks are being used as makeshift morgues, and ambulance traffic is being diverted to hospitals further away which may have greater capacity. Low-risk patients are being discharged to facilities with lower levels of care, which is appropriate, said Ghaly.

California currently has 2.5 million doses of the COVID vaccine and has a goal of administering 1 million more shots by this weekend, Jan. 17. Approximately 784,000 people in the state have already received at least one dose of the vaccine, and more than 99,000 people in the state have received the second required dose.

California has planned mass vaccination sites at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, Petco Park in San Diego, CalExpo in Sacramento, and Disneyland in Anaheim. “We want to vaccinate people as soon as we can, and not just keep doses in the freezer,” said Ghaly. He said extra doses would be given to people lower in the tier so that they are not wasted.

State health officials were expected to meet with federal health officials Jan. 12 to adjust guidelines for vaccine distribution, given a ramp-up in production with more doses expected to soon become available.

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