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Southern California Has Run Out Of ICU Beds For Coronavirus Patients

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Clinicians work after manually proning a COVID-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Sharp Grossmont Hospital on Dec. 14 in La Mesa. At the time, state ICU capacity was .5%. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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Southern California's intensive care unit capacity has hit a critical point as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the region continue to climb.

ICU availability to treat the sickest coronavirus patients is now at 0% in the 11 counties that make up Southern California.

While that doesn't mean there are no open beds, officials say they have to keep space open for non-COVID patients, too. L.A. County, home to more than 10 million residents, reported fewer than 100 ICU beds available on Thursday. That number went down again on Friday.

In the release of the daily numbers on Friday, county health officials noted that:

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COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to accelerate at alarming speed. Of the 5,100 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized, 20% of these people are in the ICU. Today's number reflects an increase of nearly 1,500 patients in just one week; on December 11, the daily number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 was 3,624.

Meanwhile, hundreds of frontline health care workers have been vaccinated since the Pfizer vaccine arrived in L.A. County earlier this week but thousands more are still waiting.

Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for the county's Department of Public Health, says herd immunity against the virus is the ultimate goal. However, it will take many months to get through the first stages of priority vaccinations before the vaccine is widely available to the general public.

"Unfortunately we're still a long way away from that. While we're very excited about the vaccine availability and rollout, we in no way want to communicate the message that the vaccine will save us," Simon says.

Public health officials yesterday recorded more than 21,000 new COVID-19 cases, the highest ever single-day number of confirmed cases.

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Numbers released Thursday were less, but still high:

And new cases went up again Friday:

MORE COVERAGE OF THE CORONAVIRUS SURGE:

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OVERALL LOOK AT LA COUNTY NUMBERS:

Here's a look at longer-term trends in the county. To see more, visit our California COVID-19 Tracker and choose L.A. County or any other California county that interests you. These numbers are current as of Thursday, Dec. 17.

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