UPDATE: The Fresno County health department said Saturday morning that California’s stay at home order has been triggered and will go into effect Sunday at 11:59 p.m. across the region. As of Saturday’s state update on hospital capacity, the San Joaquin Valley region’s intensive care bed availability has dropped to 8.6%.
The following is GV Wire’s original post:
The San Joaquin Valley region of California, including Fresno County, fell below the hospital capacity threshold for triggering the state’s strict new stay at home order on Friday night.
If regional ICU bed availability remains below 15% when the data is updated Saturday, restrictions will take effect starting Sunday barring all on-site restaurant dining and closing hair and nail salons, movie theaters, and many other businesses, as well as playgrounds and the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.
UPDATE: The Fresno County health department said Saturday morning that California’s stay at home order has been triggered and will go into effect Sunday at 11:59 p.m. across the region. As of Saturday’s state update on hospital capacity, the San Joaquin Valley region’s intensive care bed capacity has dropped to 8.6%.
The closures would stay in effect for at least three weeks. The San Joaquin Valley region is made up of 11 counties in addition to Fresno, stretching from Kern in the south to San Joaquin County in the north. The region’s ICU capacity was reported to be 14.1% late Friday evening on the state’s COVID-19 website.
Just 10 ICU Beds Available in Fresno County
Fresno County had just 10 of 150 ICU beds available on Friday. Health officials described a grim picture with hospitals struggling to stay staffed because of coronavirus infections and exposures. One hospital is holding ICU patients in the emergency department until beds open up, Emergency Medical Services Director Daniel Lynch said Friday.
The county has requested help from the state with staffing for a couple of weeks. But so far only one or two additional workers have shown up at three local hospitals as the whole state struggles with staffing.
At Kaweah Delta medical center in Visalia, there were 18 ICU beds available Friday but only the staff to handle four additional patients, said Keri Noeske, the chief nursing officer. Some 125 employees are out sick or quarantined because of COVID-19.
Southern California Region Also Falls Below ICU Threshold
Southern California’s ICU capacity also fell on Friday, to 13%, putting that region on the brink of severe restrictions as the rapid escalation of coronavirus cases threatens to overwhelm hospitals there as well.
Earlier Friday, five San Francisco Bay Area counties voluntarily imposed the new stay-at-home order on their residents, despite not meeting the ICU capacity trigger. The changes begin to take effect Sunday night in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Marin, Alameda and Contra Costa counties, as well as the city of Berkeley.
“Our biggest fear all along — that we won’t have a bed for you or your mother or your grandmother or grandfather when they get sick — is the reality we’ll be facing unless we slow the spread,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said.
California recorded another daily record number of new cases Friday with 22,018. Hospitalizations topped 9,000 for first time and ICU patients were at a record 2,152.
Gov. Gavin Newsom detailed the new regional stay at home order Thursday. It is the most restrictive response to the pandemic since he imposed the country’s first statewide stay-at-home rule in March.
The order allows people to leave their residences, but directs them not to congregate with anyone outside their household and to always wear masks when they go outside.
ICU capacity in the state’s other three regions — Greater Sacramento, Northern California and San Francisco Bay Area — were all around 21% on Friday.
Gut-Wrenching for Small Businesses
The new shutdowns were a gut-wrenching move for small businesses that have struggled to survive over nearly a year in which they were repeatedly ordered to close, then allowed to reopen but with complex safety precautions.
Michelle Saunders James was in tears Friday at the thought of closing down her Oakland nail salon just five weeks after reopening it.
“We wear (face) shields. We take temperatures. We do everything we are told to do so everyone feels safe, including our staff and team,” she told KGO-TV. “So I don’t understand why it’s not enough and I’m terribly sad and afraid.”
Under Newsom’s order, retail and grocery stores, as well as shopping centers can operate with just 20% customer capacity.
In the East Bay, Berkeley Bowl’s two grocery stores already had laid in stocks of essentials in case of a return of panic buying that was seen after the state issued a strict stay-at-home order in mid-March that later was eased.
“We’ve learned valuable lessons from last time,” general manager Steve Tsujimoto told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We acted proactively and have been warehousing certain select items — toilet paper, sanitizers, wipes, beans, rice, grains, flour, bread — things of that nature.”
Critics say the broad statewide order unfairly lumps too many disparate counties together into regions.
The approach “places our ability to reopen with 10 other counties including Los Angeles County which has absolutely failed to control the coronavirus and Mono County whose most populous city is 344 miles away,” said Fred M. Whitaker, chairman of the Republican Party of Orange County.
Rise in Infections Blamed on Increased Socializing
The explosive rise in COVID-19 infections that began in October is being blamed largely on people ignoring safety measures and socializing with others.
Berkeley Health Officer Lisa Hernandez said people should not meet in person with anyone they don’t live with, “even in a small group, and even outdoors with precautions.”
“If you have a social bubble, it is now popped,” Hernandez said. “Do not let this be the last holiday with your family.”
Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous with 10 million residents, could reach ICU capacity within days. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that could mean people with other life-threatening illnesses, such as strokes and heart attacks, might be unable to get a bed.
The city alone could see more than 11,000 lives lost to the virus by year’s end, the mayor said.
“That means 3,000 additional deaths in a single month. To put that in perspective, it’s a decade of homicides,” Garcetti said. “This is the greatest threat to life in Los Angeles that we have ever faced.”