California has become the first state to record 2 million coronavirus cases, reaching the milestone Thursday as nearly the entire state was under a strict stay-at-home order and hospitals were flooded with the largest crush of cases since the pandemic began. A tally by Johns Hopkins University showed the state has recorded 2,010,157 infections since January, along with 23,000 deaths. California's infection rate—in terms of the number of cases per 100,000 people—is lower than the US average, but its nearly 40 million residents mean the outbreak outpaces other states in sheer numbers. More than 18,000 people are hospitalized, the AP reports, and many ICUs are filled. The state has seen its number of cases climb exponentially in recent weeks, fueled largely by people who ignored warnings and held traditional Thanksgiving gatherings, health officials say.
Soaring rates of hospitalizations and deaths have have prompted hospitals to put ER patients in tents and treat others in offices and auditoriums. Pleas to avoid social gatherings for the holidays rang with special desperation in Southern California. "We know that this emergency is our darkest day, maybe the darkest day in our city's history," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday, when Los Angeles County reported its highest death toll and hospitalizations in a single day since the pandemic began—145 deaths and more than 6,000 people in hospitals. Medical workers are outraged by scenes of crowded outdoor malls, packed parking lots, and parents and children walking around without masks, the Los Angeles County health director said. (Police say one COVID-19 patient killed another in their hospital room.)