California became the first state in the nation on Thursday to surpass 2 million cases of the novel coronavirus, according to estimates from Johns Hopkins University.
Estimates from the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center show the state has recorded 2,002,494 cases of COVID-19. Nearly 24,000 people in the state have died from the virus and the state has a 6.45% testing positivity rate, according to the estimates.
The grim milestone comes as many hospitals in California are at or on the brink of capacity. Earlier this week, Gov. Gavin Newsom warned that COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state could reach 100,000 by January.
In a joint press conference on Tuesday, officials with some of the state’s larger hospital systems, including Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health and Dignity Health, as well as officials with California Health and Human Services Agency, and others, pleaded with Californians to continue to take precautions against COVID-19 amid the surge.
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“As hospital bed count continues to dwindle, we will not be able to keep up if [coronavirus cases, hopsitalizations] continue to increase,” said Greg Adams, the chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, during his opening remarks.
Adams warned that with COVID-19 patients overwhelming the hospital, it will become much harder to treat non-COVID-19-related emergencies, such as those who suffer a stroke or are in a car accident.
“We want to make sure we have the capacity to serve everyone in need,” he said.
Meanwhile, the president of System Enterprises at Sutter Health, Dr. Rishi Sikka, reminded Californians that their “small sacrifice” of staying apart from friends and loved ones this holiday season will make for a “different 2021.”
“We are asking you to stay [at] home. We know you are frustrated [about] being apart from others. But all the small sacrifices are so worth it, [we will be] in a different place in one year,” he said.
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“As we’ve heard, California is in a crisis mode — we are breaking records that we do not want to break,” such as the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the state, and the number of patients requiring ventilators or intensive care, said Dr. Thomas McGinn, the executive vice president of the Physician Enterprise at Dignity Health, during the conference.
McGinn said medical workers have a “simple prescription” for Californians: “Do not share the air.”
California has recorded a half-million coronavirus cases in the last two weeks and in a month could be facing a once-unthinkable caseload of nearly 100,000 hospitalizations, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state’s top health official said Monday.
Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s secretary of Health and Human Services, said it’s feared entire areas of the state may run out of room even in their makeshift “surge” capacity units “by the end of the month and early in January.”
In response, the state is updating its planning guide for how hospitals would ration care if everyone can’t get the treatment they need, he said.
“Our goal is to make sure those plans are in place but work hard to make sure no one has to put them into place anywhere in California,” Ghaly said.
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California is enduring by far its worst spike in cases and hospitalizations. All of Southern California and the 12-county San Joaquin Valley to the north have been out of regular ICU capacity for days. Those two regions are the ones Newsom are likely to have stay-at-home orders extended, meaning many businesses must remain closed, restaurants can only serve takeout and virtually all retail is limited to 20% capacity.
California is averaging almost 44,000 newly confirmed cases a day and has recorded 525,000 in the last two weeks. It’s estimated 12% of those who test positive end up in the hospital.
“It’s been a long nine months,” added McGinn at the joint press conference. “Now is the time to be disciplined, now is the time to stick with it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.