Coronavirus Pandemic: The Grim Reality Of Where Things Stand In SoCal Heading Into The Holidays
Monica Bushman, Lita Martinez, Megan Nguyen and Jackie Fortiér contributed to this story
California's nearing a grim milestone: 2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases.
And the state's 14-day average positivity rate is now 12.3%. That's the highest it's ever been.
In an update Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom warned that unless Californians start practicing more caution, we could see:
"A surge on top of a surge, where we are today, on top of yet again, another surge in the middle and latter part of January and February, because of Kwanzaa, because of Christmas, and because New Year."
Newsom also said that starting Thursday -- Christmas Eve -- Virgin Atlantic, Delta, and their partners will start requiring negative COVID-19 tests for people on all direct flights from London's Heathrow Airport to airports on the west coast. That's because of a new, more contagious strain of the virus that's shown up in England.
Note: Trends in the charts of California and local counties are current through Tuesday.
We're checking in with counties around Southern California, to get an idea of the state of the pandemic in their communities.
How serious is the situation? A coalition across SoCal came together late Wednesday to issue a joint letter:
LOS ANGELES COUNTY
Los Angeles County has broken yet another sobering COVID-19 record. Health officials Wednesday reported an additional 145 deaths. That is now the county's highest single-day death toll; the previous record was set just last week.
On Tuesday, the county passed 9,000 total COVID-19 deaths. The county also confirmed more than 16,500 new coronavirus cases, with over 6,100 COVID-positive patients now needing hospital care.
The county's public health director, Barbara Ferrer, says the onslaught of COVID patients is overwhelming local hospitals -- and if residents don't heed warnings to abstain from travel or holiday get-togethers, those numbers will get even worse into the new year.
"If what happens over the winter holiday break is at all the same as what happened, or even half of what happened over the Thanksgiving holiday, we're in deep trouble," Ferrer said.
She also said there are currently fewer than three dozen adult ICU beds available for COVID patients across L.A. County. But there is one tiny bit of progress, involving L.A. County's "R rate" -- that's how many people one person infected with the virus will infect. Right now, it's 1.1. That's still not good, but it's slightly better than last week's 1.2.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Over the last week, Los Angeles County health officials reported an average of 15,459 new coronavirus cases daily.
- The average daily deaths from COVID stood at 94 in L.A. County, and 281 statewide.
- A staggering 6,155 people are currently hospitalized with COVID and 20% of them are in the ICUs spread across the county's 80 acute-care hospitals.
New cases last week topped 108,200 and it's threatening to push Los Angeles County's entire health care system to the breaking point.
Crews are building a 50-bed mobile field hospital at UC Irvine Medical Center to deal with the record-setting surge of COVID-19 patients.
It's one of three such tent-like facilities going up at hospitals in Orange County.
Of the nearly 1,900 people hospitalized in the county on Wednesday, 394 are in the ICU.
Dr. Shruti Gohil, an infectious diseases specialist at UCI Medical Center, said this week that they've had more than 100 COVID-19 patients every day for the last several weeks.
"Day after day after day, those numbers just are not getting better," Gohil said. "So if I could just impress upon anybody to, you know, make your Christmas and New Year's as limited as possible in terms of the interactions that you have."
Orange County reported more than 4.400 new coronavirus cases Wednesday and 2 deaths. The county reported its highest ever daily case count -- 4,606 -- this past Sunday.
SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY
San Bernardino County reported 2,578 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and 20 deaths. The county now leads the state in new infections per 100,000 residents over the last 7 days, averaging 1,816 cases.
Currently, 8 of the county's 17 major hospitals have 0% ICU capacity.
"Our real concern is this has gone on so long, that a lot of our folks just are no longer following the rules, and are no longer listening," San Bernardino Director of Public Health Corwin Porter told us. "And that's what's really troubling us ... we're doing our best to test and contact trace and to vaccinate right now. But there's so many folks that are still spreading the virus, not taking the precautions."
Porter says transmission of the virus has become so widespread that almost every part of San Bernardino County is a hot spot right now.
COVID-19 hospitalizations in Ventura County topped 300 for the first time last weekend. As of Wednesday, there were 327 hospitalized coronavirus patients. ICU capacity is down to 0% and the county's infection rate is trending upward.
Ventura County public health officer Dr. Robert Levin says that's what makes large gatherings like the one actor Kirk Cameron organized outside the Oaks Mall Tuesday night in Thousand Oaks so concerning.
Video footage of the Christmas carolers protesting the regional stay-at-home order showed very few people wearing masks or social distancing.
"Some of these people at these gatherings, they often criticize us -- county government and public health -- for closing businesses down," Levin said. "Businesses are closed down as a direct result of their activities."
Ventura County reported 751 new coronavirus cases Wednesday and 8 deaths.