SACRAMENTO — Thirteen counties in Northern California will be placed under the state's most restrictive coronavirus rules this week because capacity in intensive care units has fallen below 15%, and officials warned Wednesday that hospitals across the state are filling up with COVID-19 patients.
The greater Sacramento region, encompassing the state capital, has an ICU capacity of 14.3% and will face a regional stay-at-home order starting at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, according to the state Department of Public Health.
The region includes Lake Tahoe, the popular ski destination where vacation travel is now banned for the second time this year.
“If we can get things under control in the next three weeks, we can reopen just in time for New Year’s,” said Chris Fiore, communications manager for the city of South Lake Tahoe.
Under the restrictions, restaurants must stop outdoor dining, personal care businesses such as barbers must close and the number of people allowed inside stores is reduced. Residents are asked to stay home except for essential activities.
The huge Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions are already in the strictest category, and several counties in the San Francisco Bay Area chose to implement their own voluntary orders independent of the state. Monterey County joined that group Wednesday, implementing its own lockdown through Jan. 11, the latest end date for any current order.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed said the city is experiencing its worst surge of new cases and hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic, and she pleaded with residents to stay home and curb holiday activities. Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco’s health director, said the city may hit the 15% threshold for available intensive care unit beds “as early as sometime this week” and could run out of ICU beds by Dec. 27.
“And that’s if things don’t get even worse, but they very well may,” Colfax said.
In Los Angeles County, the usually stoic health director, Barbara Ferrer, became emotional as she described “a devastating increase in deaths,” with the total hitting 8,075 on Wednesday. This week, the county recorded an average of 43 daily deaths — up from about 12 a day in mid-November, she said.
“Over 8,000 people who were beloved members of their families are not coming back,” Ferrer said, fighting back tears. She called the deaths “an incalculable loss to their friends and their family and the community.”
LA County hospitals are dealing with a surge in COVID-19 patients: new admissions near 500 a day. Officials anticipate that number will increase to 700 a day by next week.
While rules tightened in many places, California is now allowing outdoor playgrounds to stay open in regions under the toughest restrictions, apparently swayed by criticism that closing them would harm children who have few options to safely play outside.
On its website, the state said playgrounds could stay open to “facilitate physically distanced personal health and wellness through outdoor exercise."
Ali Bay, a spokesperson for California's Department of Public Health, said in an email that the change was new and the department was working to share the news more broadly.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom came under heavy criticism for closing children's playgrounds when his administration has repeatedly said being outdoors is safer than being indoors and there is little evidence of the virus spreading on playground structures.
Playground advocates have said children need fresh air and exercise for their emotional and physical health, and many don't have access to private backyards. Fraught parents also need a place to take their cooped-up kids, advocates said.
“We understand that many parents were desperate to find a place where their child could go,” Ferrer said. The LA County health director urged parents to take precautions at playgrounds and avoid them altogether if the spaces are too crowded.
The voluntary order for San Francisco, Santa Clara, Marin, Contra Costa and Alameda counties also had shuttered playgrounds.
Editor's Note: Because of the health implications of the COVID-19 virus, this article is being made available free to all online readers. If you'd like to join us in supporting the mission of local journalism, please visit napavalleyregister.com/members/join/.
WATCH NOW: PRESIDENT-ELECT BIDEN SETS PRIORITIES FOR FIRST 100 DAYS
COMPLETE CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE FROM THE NAPA VALLEY REGISTER, ST. HELENA STAR, AND THE WEEKLY CALISTOGAN: FALL/WINTER 2020 EDITION
Complete coronavirus coverage from the Napa Valley Register, St. Helena Star, and The Weekly Calistogan: Fall/Winter 2020 edition
This webpage contains all Napa County coronavirus coverage as featured in the Napa Valley Register, St. Helena Star and The Weekly Calistogan. This page will be updated as news comes in. Please bookmark this page to stay on top of local developments.
Submit news tips here: https://napavalleyregister.com/forms/news-tips/news_tips/
Starting Tuesday, restaurants and wine tasting rooms will not be allowed to serve the public indoors. Houses of worship also can only operate outdoors.
Amid the pandemic's upsurge this fall, Napa residents — and visitors to the valley — are paring down their holiday guest lists to keep safe and stop the spread.
The rise in local COVID-19 cases has not yet translated into a dramatic increase in hospitalizations, Queen of the Valley reports.
Napa County plummeted overnight into to the purple "tier" and many local business owners are scrambling.
A resident reports that 11 people living at the home, including three in nursing care, have tested positive for the virus.
Five employees and 18 students attending classes at NVUSD schools have contracted the coronavirus since late October, the district superintendent announced Thursday.
Cases rose by over 50% this week, setting the county up for possibly more restrictions on businesses as soon as next week.
Senator Bill Dodd’s latest town hall featured experts who spoke about how 2021 might shape up for Napa County.
Social gatherings in homes are a major source of new COVID cases in the state.
Major holiday celebrations are being canceled due to the pandemic which continues to reshape community life.
Catch up on Napa County's top news stories of 2020
In case you missed it, here is a look at the top stories of 2020.
It's been a turbulent year for the wine industry, which between intermittent wildfires, smoke events and pandemic lockdowns has attempted to remain open for business.
The Hennessey and Glass fires made 2020 a year to remember for all the wrong reasons.
It was the year when schools and universities went dark — and their denizens were left to teach and learn, online and indefinitely separated from their friends and peers.
COVID-19 has catapulted county government into the spotlight.
Weber reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writers Janie Har and Daisy Nguyen in San Francisco and John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this report.