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ICU Crunch Puts State Near Big Shutdowns

California reported 20,000 new coronavirus cases in one day
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 3, 2020 5:38 PM CST

(Newser) – California will likely order most of its businesses to close or limit capacity in the coming days, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday, part of new rules triggered when fewer than 15% of beds are available in intensive care units for regional hospital networks. Newsom said four of the state’s five regions—excluding the San Francisco Bay Area—will meet that threshold within a day or two, the AP reports. When they do, the state will order the closure of all hair salons and barbershops, bars, breweries, distilleries, casinos, and indoor and outdoor playgrounds. Restaurants would be limited to takeout and delivery only, while retailers must limit customers inside their stories to 20% capacity during the holiday shopping season. Once triggered, regions would have 48 hours to implement the rules, which must stay in effect at least three weeks. "The bottom line is if we don’t act now our hospital system will be overwhelmed," Newsom said. California on Wednesday reported more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases, the most ever in one day.

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A record 8,500 people are in hospitals, including more than 2,000 in intensive care units, leaving the state with fewer than 2,000 available intensive care beds. Newsom—who is staying at home after three of his children were exposed to the virus—already has imposed restrictions, including a nighttime curfew in 51 of the state’s 58 counties, an area with nearly the entire state population. Los Angeles County, the nation's most populous with 10 million residents, also has imposed tighter stay-at-home restrictions and a three-week ban on in-person restaurant dining because of what the county health director called "terrifying increases in numbers." On Wednesday night, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an order in apocalyptic tones telling people to stay home. LA “is now close to a devastating tipping point" that could overwhelm the hospital system, "in turn risking needless suffering and death," the order said. Overall, California has reported more than 1.2 million COVID-19 cases and more than 19,300 deaths.

(Read more California stories.)

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