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Southern California expected to reach that threshold in early December

By Miriam Raftery

View Governor’s press conference:

December 3, 2020 (San Diego) – California is running out of beds in intensive care units (ICU) needed for the most critically ill patients as COVID-19 surges. Statewide, demand for ICU beds is expected to exceed capacity by mid-December, while Southern California may exceed ICU capacity even sooner.

To save lives and prevent a crisis in our healthcare system, Governor Gavin Newsom announced new restrictions including regional stay-home orders and some business shut-downs once a region dips below 15% ICU bed capacity.

San Diego, which is currently at 23% ICU capacity, is expected to see more hospitalizations and ICU bed usage as cases contracted at Thanksgiving gatherings worsen.

The 15% trigger, however, for our region will include all  Southern California counties including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Imperial, Inyo and Mono, so shortages of ICU beds in the region overall could impact San Diegans.

Once a region falls below 15% ICU capacity, a new shutdown order will last for at least three weeks—a prospect casting a damper over the Christmas and Hannukah holiday season. The restrictions include:

  • People must stay home except for  critical needs such as groceries, exercise or medical services.
  • Gatherings with people outside your household are prohibited.
  • Restaurants must serve only take-out food or delivery service, no outdoor or indoor dining.
  • Retailers must reduce capacity to 20%.
  • The following must close down: playgrounds, indoor recreation, salons, museums, zoos, movie theaters, wineries, bars, casinos, live-audience sports and amusement parks in regions impacted by the order.
  • Hotels can operate only for critical infrastructure support.
  • Religious services can be conducted online or outdoors, not inside.
  • Schools already reopened are not affected by the order.
  • Outdoor activities such as hiking, running, outdoor yoga, and dog walking may continue.

“This is the final surge,” Newsom stated at a press conference today, adding that with a vaccine rolling out, “There is light at the end of the tunnel…Lives will be lost unless we do more than we’ve ever done.” Vaccines are expected to reach San Diego starting later this month for healthcare workers and nursing homes, with vaccines phased in after that; everyone in San Diego should be able to access vaccine by March or April, Dr. Wilma Wooten, the County public health officer stated yesterday.

The Governor also emphasized that the state has approved new aid programs to help businesses, targeting those most impacted by pandemic-related shutdowns, including grant programs and deferrment of sales taxes.

Miriam Raftery, editor and founder of East County Magazine, has over 35 years of journalism experience. She has won more than 350 journalism awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, San Diego Press Club, and the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Her honors include the Sol Price Award for responsible journalism and three James Julian awards for public interest reporting from SPJ’s San Diego chapter. She has received top honors for investigative journalism, multicultural reporting, coverage of immigrant and refugee issues, politics, breaking news and more. Thousands of her articles have appeared in national and regional publications.

East County Magazine gratefully acknowledges the Facebook Journalism Project for its COVID-19 Relief Fund grant to support our local news reporting including impacts on vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more: #FacebookJournalismProject and

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