LOS ANGELES – As parts of Northern California began to see the first guarded signs of progress Tuesday in the battle against the winter coronavirus surge, communities in hard-hit Southern California were bracing for more cases to swarm hospitals already overwhelmed as COVID-19 continues to rise.
The post-Christmas surge is still slamming Los Angeles and surrounding counties. The spread is increasing again as people infected during holiday events test positive. Officials expect that will lead to more hospitalizations, but how much remains a critical question because medical infrastructure is already at the breaking point.
Any new spike in infections, officials warn, will trigger a resulting wave of new patients requiring professional care — creating an unsustainable strain on already overtaxed hospitals and intensive care units.
On Tuesday, a tally of local health jurisdictions found 318 deaths reported in L.A. County, tying the record single-day high of deaths recorded on Friday.
Daily coronavirus cases are also increasing. On Tuesday, 14,134 new coronavirus cases were recorded in L.A. County. That pushed the county's average to more than 15,000 cases a day over the past week, one of the worst daily averages recorded in L.A. County and a warning sign of a future surge of hospitalizations.
Officials had forecast that averaging 15,000 cases a day would likely be a precursor to an even worse surge in hospitalizations. So far, that has not materialized, but officials expect that could soon change.
But to the north, the news was not quite as dire.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that the state was lifting its stay-at-home order for Greater Sacramento effective immediately, making the region the first to emerge from the restrictions on businesses and activities imposed in hopes of blunting the coronavirus surge.
The counties included in the region — Alpine, Amador, Butte, Colusa, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Sierra, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba — will return to the state's color-coded tier framework that determines how widely commercial and public spaces can reopen.
"California remains in its most intense surge to date," Newsom said in a brief video message announcing the move. "But there are some good things to report. We're starting to see some stabilization both in ICUs [and] in our positivity rate. We're also starting to see the rate of growth for hospitalizations beginning to decline."