Coronavirus: Southern California’s available ICU beds drop to 7.7%

Southern California’s intensive-care unit availability dropped to 7.7%, according to a Thursday, Dec. 10, update from the California Department of Public Health — down from Wednesday’s 9% mark.

The number has continued to fall consistently after the number triggered strict stay-at-home restrictions from state officials last weekend, as the resurgent outbreak worsens in Southern California’s “Region 5” footprint.

Meanwhile, another California region is subject to the stay-at-home order as ICU space for COVID-19 patients continued to decline around the state. A stay-at-home order will take effect in the greater Sacramento region late Thursday as that area on Wednesday hit 13% ICU capacity.

State officials are using this metric to determine which regions are subject to the most recent stay-at-home order, which closed scaled back businesses, barred most public gatherings, required masks and physical distancing at all times and shuttered outdoor dining ventures, forcing restaurateurs to serve only takeout and delivery.

The order applies to regions with less than 15% capacity left in ICUs, which Southern California and San Joaquin Valley, which has only 1.9%, are already under. Those two areas may be free from the order December 28 if ICU capacity projections for January are 15% or higher, while greater Sacramento’s chance out of it could come January 1, 2021.

Essential businesses, schools and non-urgent medical and dental care can remain open with appropriate infectious disease preventative measures.

There were 29,677 new cases confirmed in the state Wednesday, according to the update, and as case numbers continue to rise in California, the total number of people who will have serious outcomes will also increase.

ICU bed availability in the Bay Area is 17.8%, and 30.3% in Northern California. Despite hovering over the threshold, Bay Area leaders issued their own stay-at-home order earlier this month.

Still, the state’s ICU percentages are not as straightforward as they initially seem.

Los Angeles County health officials said the state believes only 30% of an ICU should be populated by COVID-19 patients. Anything exceeding that benchmark will be artificially inflated by the state’s formula.

As of Sunday, Dec. 6, Los Angeles County had 46% of its ICU capacity filled with coronavirus patients, officials said on Wednesday, Dec. 9.

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