The number of coronavirus cases in California has surged past 3,000, and officials say the growth rate is so big that it could overwhelm hospitals in the coming days and weeks.
The stateside death toll now stands at 67, far less than the 285 deaths in New York, which has become the national epicenter of the coronavirus crisis. But officials said California needs to brace itself for far more cases and deaths.
If that rate holds, California hospitals could see a surge in patients in one to two weeks, Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of Health and Human Services, said during a Facebook news conference.
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“We originally thought that it would be doubling every six to seven days; we see cases doubling every three to four days,” Ghaly said. “[We’re] watching that trend very, very closely.”
San Francisco leaders said Wednesday that it was plausible the city could face a crisis similar to that of New York City and fall short 1,500 ventilators and 5,000 hospital beds.
“It is not even a question as to whether we will need more,” Mayor London Breed said during an hourlong news conference.
Nicholas Jewell, a biostatistics researcher at UC Berkeley who has been tracking the pandemic, said the coronavirus is spreading rapidly throughout the U.S., at a rate quicker than or on par with countries hit the hardest.
While the state continues to struggle to gain a clear picture of the outbreak, Jewell cautioned that the expected surge in the coming weeks does not mean social distancing and shelter-in-place orders are not working.
“We knew going in we will not see any impact of shelter in place for at least two to three weeks,” he said. “We have to be patient at this point and stay the course.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom echoed that message as well, and said the state had early data indicating that the measures may be slowing the virus’ spread.
“We know it’s had an impact on bending that curve and buying us time,” Newsom said. “Every day, that is another day that we’re getting more assets, more physical and human resources, prepared for a worst-case scenario.”
Across the state, public health officials reported a continued increase in COVID-19 cases, including in Los Angeles County, where the county health officer on Wednesday ordered that all those who test positive for the coronavirus self-isolate, along with those in close contact with the infected.
Officials confirmed 138 new cases Wednesday in the state’s most populous county, for a total of more than 800. Three additional deaths brought the total in Los Angeles County to 13. Statewide, more than 3,100 of those tested have been confirmed to have infections.
Public health officials emphasized that the actual number of people infected is almost certainly higher, but an accurate count is impossible because so few tests have been given.
Newsom announced that testing in the state had been conducted on more than 66,800 people but said that “it’s not good enough” to predict an accurate picture of what is happening or meet medical needs.
So far in L.A. County, more than 6,300 people have been tested for the virus. Of those, 11% have tested positive. Officials said 160 people who tested positive have been hospitalized at some point. There are currently 44 hospitalized individuals, including four in their 30s.
Roughly 1% of those who have tested positive in the county have died. The United States’ mortality rate for COVID-19 is 1.5%, a rate higher than that for the flu.