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COVID-19: California nears 30,000 deaths; San Bernardino adds almost 9,000 cases over weekend

The Desert Sun (Palm Springs) logo The Desert Sun (Palm Springs) 1/10/2021 Staff and wire reports, Palm Springs Desert Sun
a sign in front of a cake: People wait in line for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Roy Wilson Training Center in Thousand Palms, Calif. on Thursday, January 7, 2021. © Vickie Connor/The Desert Sun People wait in line for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Roy Wilson Training Center in Thousand Palms, Calif. on Thursday, January 7, 2021.

California is closing in on 30,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic as hospitals scramble to find beds for severely ill patients during a continuing spike in COVID-19 case numbers.

The state reported 468 deaths on Sunday, a day after setting a record one-day total of 695, according to the Department of Public Health. California’s death toll since the start of the pandemic rose to 29,701. Meanwhile, hospitalizations are at nearly 22,000, and state models project that number could reach 30,000 by Feb 1.

A surge of cases following Halloween and Thanksgiving produced record hospitalizations in California, and now the most seriously ill of those patients are dying in unprecedented numbers. Officials fear another surge in coming days connected to gatherings during Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations.

'We’ve never seen this much death before'

Already, many hospitals in Los Angeles and other hard-hit areas are struggling to keep up and warn they may need to ration care as intensive care beds dwindle. Nursing homes and rehabilitation centers are accepting patients transferred from Los Angeles County hospitals struggling to find space for incoming coronavirus cases.

“If there is another place for them to go we need to let that patient go to that other bed … because there’s somebody else who’s dying right now and they need a bed,” Suzette Shields, a clinical social work supervisor at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, told the Los Angeles Times.

Every intensive care unit bed at St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard is full, and emergency rooms are packed across Ventura County, about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles, the Ventura County Star reported.

When a code blue is sounded at the hospital signaling a cardiac arrest, nurse Yesenia Avila says a little prayer. On one particular shift, she said three COVID-19 patients died within an hour.

“We’ve never seen this much death before,” Avila told the newspaper. “I’ve been in health care for 22 years, and I’ve never been scared. Right now, I am ... I fear for my children.”

L.A. County accounts for 40% of deaths in state

The post-Christmas surge was worsening in Los Angeles County, where figures released late last week showed a new daily caseload of nearly 20,000 — significantly above the average of about 14,000 new cases a day over the previous week.

On Saturday, the county surpassed 12,000 deaths caused by COVID-19 — 1,000 of which happened in the previous four days.

“The speed with which we are reaching grim milestones of COVID-19 deaths and cases is a devastating reflection of the immense spread that is occurring across the county,” said Barbara Ferrer, public health director for Los Angeles County. “And this accelerated spread reflects the many unsafe actions individuals took over the holidays.”

Los Angeles County has a fourth of the state’s population, but it accounts for about 40% of COVID-19 deaths.

Statewide, California saw more cases in the week ending Saturday compared to the week before. This past week, the state added 282,474 cases. The previous week had 267,947 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19.

California ranked No. 5 among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis, a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the latest week the United States added 1,698,484 reported cases of coronavirus, an increase of 18% from the week before. Across the country, 46 states had more cases in the latest week than they did in the week before.

Testing has changed around the holidays, making comparisons difficult. Labs and testing sites closed. People traveled or prepared for the holidays instead of getting tested. Some counties and states didn't report data as quickly.

Within California, the worst weekly outbreaks on a per-person basis were in Ventura, Los Angeles and Colusa counties. Adding the most new cases overall were Los Angeles County, with 99,961 cases; San Diego County, with 24,100 cases; and Riverside County, with 23,448. Weekly case counts rose in 49 of the state's 58 counties from the previous week. The worst increases from the prior week's pace were in San Diego, Ventura and Riverside counties.

The share of California test results that came back positive was 14% in the latest week, compared with 14% in the week before, a USA TODAY Network analysis of COVID Tracking Project data shows. In the latest week, 1,962,306 tests were administered; a week earlier, that figure was 1,944,900. Experts say it is important to look at the share of tests that come back positive, not just case counts, to get a better idea of whether the rate of new infections is changing or if differences in testing are playing a role.

A total of 2,671,031 people in California have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the United States 22,132,396 people have tested positive and 372,428 people have died.

San Bernardino County

San Bernardino County health officials reported almost 9,000 new coronavirus cases over the weekend and 45 deaths since Friday. 

The county added 4,814 cases Saturday and 3,965 on Sunday. The county death toll stands at 1,531.  The county has recorded 228,315 cases since the start of the pandemic. 

Active cases: The county's total number of known, active coronavirus cases is 22,102. 

This total is derived by subtracting deaths (1,531) and recoveries (204,682 ) from the current confirmed case total of 228,315. 

Tests: County health officials on Sunday have reported that 1,856,811 coronavirus tests have been conducted — up 58,950 tests from Friday. The county is urging people to get tested even if they don't have symptoms.

Vaccines: As of Thursday 28,290 have received the COVID-19 vaccination.

San Bernardino County is included in the 11-county Southern California region that is currently under state-mandated stay-at-home orders due to the region's low number of available ICU beds.

San Bernardino County reported 1,758 confirmed COVID-19 patients in its hospitals as of Sunday. Of those, 360 were being cared for in intensive care units, three fewer than Friday.

Patients with confirmed and suspected cases of COVID-19 are occupying 59.4% of the county's ICU beds. The county said Sunday it had 120 ICU beds available.

Where are the COVID-19 cases?

As of Sunday, here is a list of confirmed cases and deaths in the high desert, with increases from the Friday tally in parentheses:

  • Adelanto:  4,306  cases (+147), 28 (+1) deaths
  • Apple Valley:  7,330  (+187), 65 (+8)  deaths 
  • Baker: 34 (+2) cases 
  • Barstow: 2,758 cases (+72), 18 deaths
  • Daggett: 13 cases 
  • Helendale: 387 cases (+15), 1 death (+1)
  • Hesperia: 10,879 cases (+350), 58 deaths (+4)
  • Hinkley: 46 cases (+1), 1 death
  • Joshua Tree: 222 cases (+5), 5 deaths
  • Landers: 34 cases (+2), 1 death
  • Lucerne Valley: 263 cases (+12), 4 deaths
  • Morongo Valley: 135 cases (+8), 1 death
  • Needles: 233 cases (+6), 3 deaths
  • Newberry Springs: 96 cases (+6)
  • Oak Hills: 1,088 cases (+44), 1 death
  • Oro Grande: 106 cases (+5), 1 death
  • Phelan: 1,210 cases (+48), 6 deaths
  • Piñon Hills: 298 cases (+10), 2 deaths
  • Pioneertown: 8 cases (+1)
  • Trona: 28 cases (+1)
  • Twentynine Palms: 594 cases (+43), 2 deaths
  • Victorville: 16,463 cases (+541), 93 deaths (+1)
  • Yermo: 68 cases, 1 death
  • Yucca Valley: 940 cases (+65), 24 deaths

Here is Sunday's list of cases and deaths in the mountain communities, with increases from Wednesday's tally in parentheses:

  • Angelus Oaks: 32 cases (+1)
  • Big Bear City: 417 cases (+16)
  • Big Bear Lake: 254 cases (+10)
  • Blue Jay: 95 cases (+5), 2 deaths
  • Cedar Glen: 7 cases
  • Crestline: 426 cases (+33), 3 deaths
  • Fawnskin: 10 cases 
  • Forest Falls: 33 cases 
  • Lake Arrowhead: 289 cases (+15) 1 death (+1)
  • Rimforest: 27 cases (+1)
  • Running Springs: 196 cases (+11)
  • Sugarloaf: 70 cases (+1), 1 death
  • Twin Peaks: 90 cases (+5), 1 death
  • Wrightwood: 260 cases (+7), 2 deaths

USA Today reporter Mike Stucka, Desert Sun editor Julie Makinen and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: COVID-19: California nears 30,000 deaths; San Bernardino adds almost 9,000 cases over weekend

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