Already overwhelmed, SoCal hospitals expect worst to come in weeks following holidays

Hospitals in central and Southern California are quickly running out of intensive care unit beds for coronavirus patients and state officials are poised to extend the strictest stay-at-home orders there as conditions worsen before the post-holiday surge hits.

The situation is already dire, and the worst is expected to come in the next few weeks after Christmas and New Year’s travelers return home. California hit 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Christmas Eve, becoming the first state to reach the grim milestone.

Health inspectors and authorities stepped up enforcement at restaurants and shopping malls over the post-Christmas weekend in an attempt to curb the surge.

State stay-at-home orders for the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California are set to expire Monday — they were first imposed three weeks ago — but Gov. Gavin Newsom has signaled they would not be allowed to lapse.

In some counties in the San Joaquin Valley, state data shows there aren’t any ICU beds left. In others, only a handful remain. The crisis is straining the state’s medical system well beyond its normal capacity, prompting hospitals to treat patients in tents, offices and auditoriums.

In Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous, county estimates show that about 1 in 95 people are contagious with the virus.

Statewide, officials on Saturday reported that California has 2,072,665 confirmed cases and nearly 24,000 deaths. The figures are from Christmas, the most recent data available. Most of the state is under stay-at-home orders.

In Los Angeles County, officials estimate one person dies every 10 minutes from COVID-19.

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