California coronavirus lockdowns will ‘rescue’ hospital capacity, Fauci says

New lockdown orders in California will rescue strained hospitals, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.

Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed a strict stay-at-home order over the weekend after the state fell below 15% capacity in intensive care units because of rising coronavirus cases. Newsom warned last week that the lockdown would be triggered regionally when ICU capacity dipped under that level.

Fauci said health authorities in California are in a “very difficult situation.” His comments arose Monday during an interview with the Milken Institute’s 2020 Future of Health Summit, speaking with moderator Norah O’Donnell, anchor and managing editor of CBS Evening News.

“They were right at the cusp of having the hospital beds be overrun in the sense of not having enough beds, not having enough trained personnel, particularly intensive care,” Fauci said. “They made a difficult decision but I believe it was the prudent decision where they said, ‘you know, if we keep going up at the rate we’re going, very soon our hospital system, our public health system is going to be stretched to the maximum. So now’s the time to call a timeout, shut down, not indefinitely, but just enough to add some flexibility to the hospital system,’ otherwise, they could be in significant trouble.”


The new order, the most restrictive since March, closes hair salons, bars and indoor dining and allows retailers to operate at only 20% capacity, among other restrictions, which will last for at least three weeks — overlapping with the Christmas holiday.

Newsom on Monday announced an 8.4% positivity rate during a 14-day trendline, which is up from 5.6% two weeks ago. 

“That rate of growth is very, very acute,” he said.

The positivity rate marks the highest seen since the beginning of the pandemic, apart from exceedingly high percent positivity rates in early April based on a small number of tests. The seven-day positivity rate is 10.5%. One month ago, the state was at a 3.4% positivity rate.


Fauci said other states are in a “comparable” situation to that of California’s heavy burden of coronavirus cases, but he stopped short of identifying states that could benefit from stay-at-home orders.

“I don’t want to say that Norah because I don’t want to get ahead of them [state officials], they’re on the ground they know better than I do,” Fauci said addressing O’Donnell of CBS.

On Monday, members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force clashed over the lockdown orders in California. Fauci said state officials didn’t have “any choice,” and Admiral Brett Giroir took the position that the “evidence” and “science” do not support shutdowns by calling them “counterproductive,” as cases of COVID-19 surge in California.


Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

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