Climate crisis and migration: Greta Thunberg supports International Organization for Migration (IOM) over ‘life and death’ issueRead more United Nations (UN) Convenes Lake Chad Countries, Amid Growing Regional CrisisRead more 11 Disruptive Startups Selected for Cohort 3 of the Africa Startup Initiative Program (ASIP) Accelerator Program powered by Startupbootcamp AfricaRead more Africa Data Centres breaks ground on new Sameer facility in NairobiRead more Coffee with a human face: A union that improves livelihoods for Ugandan farmersRead more Trends Predicted to drive the retail industry in 2023Read more Vantage Capital exits Pétro IvoireRead more Afrobarometer charts path for Round 10 surveysRead more Unified communication and collaboration trends for 2023 (By David Meintjes)Read more 2023 starts with BIG IMPACT on Bizcommunity!Read more

California orders body bags as intensive care swamped by Covid

show caption
Governor Gavin Newsom warned Californians not to become complacent with an end to the pandemic in sight thanks to the launch of vaccinations./AFP
Print Friendly and PDF

Dec 16, 2020 - 05:31 AM

LOS ANGELES — California officials ordered thousands of extra body bags Tuesday as record coronavirus cases left Los Angeles with fewer than 100 intensive care beds available for a county of 10 million people.

The situation has grown severe across southern parts of California, which was praised for its response at the start of the pandemic in spring, but which has seen Covid-related hospital admissions soar sixfold since mid-October.

Beyond Los Angeles, health authorities have sounded the alarm in nearby Ventura and Riverside counties, operating with 99 and 100 percent of ICU capacity used up respectively.

Ambulance waits of up to five hours before patients can be transported to crowded hospitals have been reported.

“We just had to order 5,000 additional body bags… that should be sobering,” said Governor Gavin Newsom, warning the state is “in the middle of the most acute peak” of the disease.

“I don’t want… to scare folks. But this is a deadly disease, and we need to be mindful of where we are.

“We are not at the finish line yet,” he added.

Although vaccinations began in several California cities Monday, the process is expected to come too late to stem the state’s third wave of coronavirus.

John Murray, a spokesman for UCI Health in Orange County, admitted the demand on his hospital was “great” but added: “We’re managing it.”

“We have the ability to convert other units into ICUs fairly quickly.”

But with remaining ICU capacity across southern California down to just 1.7 percent, some experts warned the lack of specialized care could trigger a spike in mortality.

“Many folks may be thinking that this is just not anything to be really worried about because hospitals can just add more beds — the reality is every bed needs to be staffed by highly trained and skilled healthcare workers,” said Los Angeles County public health director Barbara Ferrer.

“We don’t have an endless supply of healthcare workers, and those that are here saving lives every day are exhausted.”


Worsening matters, officials warned that daily cases and deaths could rise further as people continue to gather for parties, indoor religious services and youth sport competitions — all of which are technically banned.

Most of California’s residents were placed under a new version of lockdown last week, with 33 million residents banned from gatherings between households and “non-essential” activities.

“The numbers are getting to be astronomical. People are going to die that don’t need to die,” Ventura County public health officer Robert Levin told the Los Angeles Times.

In Los Angeles, prosecutors have filed a lawsuit against a downtown nightclub that continued to host late-night, underground raves in violation of Covid restrictions.

“We’re in the middle of the most acute peak as it relates to what we refer to as the third wave, and what we hope is the final wave of this disease,” said Newsom, urging Californians not to become complacent.

California has recorded more than 1.6 million coronavirus cases and 21,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

Last week, COVID-19 killed an average of 163 people every day in California, up from 41 a month earlier.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” said Newsom. “We’re still in the tunnel.”

MAORANDCITIES.COM uses both Facebook and Disqus comment systems to make it easier for you to contribute. We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles and blog posts. All comments should be relevant to the topic. By posting, you agree to our Privacy Policy. We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, name-calling, foul language or other inappropriate behavior. Please keep your comments relevant and respectful. By leaving the ‘Post to Facebook’ box selected – when using Facebook comment system – your comment will be published to your Facebook profile in addition to the space below. If you encounter a comment that is abusive, click the “X” in the upper right corner of the Facebook comment box to report spam or abuse. You can also email us.