A healthcare worker in protective gear treats a COVID-19 patient at the El Centro Regional Medical Center. REUTERS/Ariana Drehsler

San Diego County health officials reported 1,504 new COVID-19 cases and five additional deaths Thursday as rising hospitalization rates throughout the state prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to issue a conditional stay-at-home order.

Thursday’s data raise the county’s totals to 86,142 cases and 1,040 deaths.

Newsom’s order will be triggered when intensive care unit bed availability in a select region falls below 15%. Although no region met that criteria as of Thursday, Newsom said the Southern California region could meet it in a matter of days.

Unlike the state’s four-tiered coronavirus monitoring system, which grades every county individually, the new stay-at-home order will apply more broadly to five “regions” in the state: Southern California, the Bay Area, the greater Sacramento area, Northern California and the San Joaquin Valley.

San Diego County has an ICU occupancy rate of 77%. Of 696 ICU beds ready for use, 534 are occupied — 212 by COVID-19 patients, or nearly 40%.

The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency reported that 753 coronavirus patients were hospitalized as of Thursday. That compares to 739 reported Wednesday, with 209 in the ICU.

The number of people with COVID-19 in area hospitals has nearly tripled from one month ago — 273 were hospitalized on Nov. 2. The 739 is also double the previous peak in mid-July.

Of the 86,142 cases logged in the county since the start of the pandemic, 4,769 — or 5.5% — have required hospitalization and 1,052 patients – – 1.2% — had to be admitted to an ICU.

The total number of people hospitalized for any reason in the county is 4,531 — fairly consistent with the past several months — but the percentage of COVID-19 patients in the region’s hospitals rose from 6.5% a month ago to 16.6% on Thursday.

Thursday also marked the 23rd consecutive day more than 600 new cases have been reported and the 11th day of the last 14 more than 1,000 new cases were reported — including two days over the Thanksgiving weekend with more than 1,800 new infections.

A total of 26,611 tests were reported Thursday, with 6% returning positive, bringing the 14-day average to 6.2%.

A total of 12 community outbreaks were confirmed Thursday. Over the previous seven days, 89 community outbreaks were confirmed. A community outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting and in people of different households over the past 14 days.

On Wednesday San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher offered a reminder statistics on COVID-19 are delayed due to the virus’ incubation period.

“We expect this to get worse before it gets better,” Fletcher said.

— City News Service