COVID-19 patients in Los Angeles
Paramedics escort COVID-19 patients at the ambulance entrance to the emergency room at Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center on Sunday. REUTERS/Bing Guan

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday it is likely that stay-at-home orders will be extended in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley as the COVID-19 surge continues.

“It is clear and understandable that it’s likely those stay-at-home orders will be extended,” said Newsom during a livestreamed press conference.

But he said a final decision will be made on Tuesday based on projections for ICU utilization over the next four weeks. The three-week-long orders were due to expire on Monday.

He said both Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley regions have essentially no free ICU space.

Los Angeles County is currently reporting 12,000 to 15,000 cases a day, he said, and over the last weekend, 96% of hospitals experienced times when no new patients could be admitted.

Los Angeels County Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly said hospitals are “inundated with COVID patients” and the situation is “truly dire.”

“There’s many situations in which as many as 10 ambulances are waiting to offload patients, and those patients are being cared for and treated in the ambulances as if it’s part of the emergency room bay,” Ghaly said. “Hospitals are treating patients in other areas that are not typically used for patient care at all. They’re using places like conference rooms or gift shops.”

Newsom said the state has dispatched a support team to Los Angeles to assist with management of overflow conditions at the county’s hospitals.

Hospitals in Riverside and San Bernardino County are also under extreme pressure, he said.

Outside of Southern California, there is some evidence that hospitalizations for COVID-19 are beginning to plateau, he said, but warned that there could be a new, post-Christmas surge.

The San Francisco Bay area and greater Sacramento are also under restriction, with ICU capacities hovering just under 10% and 17%, respectively. They come up for possible renewal of stay-at-home orders early next month.

The governor said nearly 262,000 people in California have already received one of the new vaccines, and the state will have received 1.76 million doses by the end of the week.

Updated at 7:50 p.m., Monday, Dec. 28, 2020

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