Gov. Gavin Newsom
Gov. Gavin Newsom. Courtesy of the governor’s office

With ICU capacity essentially zero in Southern California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday the regional stay-at-home order will almost certainly be extended beyond the current Dec. 28 end date.

“We are likely — I think it’s pretty self-evident — going to need to extend those regional dates,” said Newsom in a livestreamed news conference.

The regional stay-at-home order for the 11-county Southern California region took effect at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 6 and was originally set for three weeks to control the surge in COVID-19 infections. Newsom did not give an indication of exactly when a decision on extending the order will be made, or how much long the order will remain in place.

The Southern California region covers Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Imperial, Inyo, Mono, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Most broadly, the order bars gatherings of people from different households, closes in-person dining at restaurants and restricts capacity at retail businesses.

Four of the five regions of California are under stay-at-home orders. Only lightly populated far northern California is not under a stay-at-home order.

The order was triggered in each area when the region’s ICU bed availability dropped below 15%. As of Monday, the Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions both had an official ICU bed availability of 0%.

Newsom said there are now 3,644 coronavirus patients in ICUs across the state, a number that is 51% higher than two weeks ago. He added that average of 233 people are dying from the disease daily in California.

California Secretary of Health and Human Services Mark Ghaly said many hospitals in the state may also soon run out of room for patients who need to be admitted but do not require intensive care.

While the stay-at-home order is likely to be extended, the governor expressed optimism about he number of vaccines that will soon be available.

He said the state expects to receive this week 672,600 doses of the newly approved Moderna vaccine and another 233,025 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. He said 70,258 doses of vaccine were administered across the state last week.

The governor also said a highly infectious new strain of coronavirus identified in Britain has not been detected in California.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.