California’s hospitals continued to fill with patients, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Monday, even as the latest round of lockdowns took effect across much of the state.
The availability of intensive care beds is teetering in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley — the two regions where scarce capacity led to the stay-at-home orders — and more than 10,000 Covid-19 patients are now hospitalized in the state, a figure more than 70 percent above what it was two weeks ago.
“You can see how quickly this grows,” the governor said Monday morning.
Though the state is averaging 21,000 new known cases a day, twice as many as it was reporting at its worst point this summer and by far its highest levels of the pandemic, Mr. Newsom once again tried to allay panic.
[Track coronavirus cases and deaths across California.]
He said that the state still had more than 73,000 open hospital beds, and that regional health care leaders had been gauging where to pull back on elective surgeries. He also mentioned programs allowing patients in hard-hit areas to be treated with oxygen at home, and underscored efforts to bring on extra health care workers.
Still, as my colleagues and I have reported, officials have for weeks been warning of a post-Thanksgiving surge in cases. And now, state officials say, that in spite of their efforts to head it off, it looks as if the surge has arrived.
“We know that cases that potentially occurred during Thanksgiving are going to show up right about now,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the California secretary of health and human services.
I had asked the governor and Dr. Ghaly whether — knowing that experts had been sounding the alarm about Thanksgiving in particular — they had discussed implementing a broader stay-at-home order sooner.
The answer, unsurprisingly, was yes.
The state, they said, worked with health care providers, local officials and others to craft stay-at-home orders that would be as limited as possible, while also curbing the spread of the virus.
“All of these are coming together — these signals in our data — to cause us to do the regional stay-at-home order the way we did,” Dr. Ghaly said.
As we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, even in California, where support for restrictions has been relatively high, balancing the many considerations at play in managing the virus is exceedingly complex.
California’s long, complicated process of shutting down, then lifting restrictions and then reimposing them (but only in some places) is a testament to the difficulty of that task.
[What to know about the restrictions in place right now.]
But Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, the vice dean for population health and health equity at the School of Medicine at U.C. San Francisco, told me that the fact that Californians had been under varying levels of restriction for roughly 10 months only makes the state’s plight now more vexing.
As cases began to rise again, policymakers took incremental steps to try to curb the alarming spread, rather than implement a more restrictive statewide order, like the one in March.
“They’ve tried to keep things open because of the economic need, which, unfortunately, makes the messaging more challenging,” she said. “Because now we really are in a crisis.”
Dr. Bibbins-Domingo emphasized another challenge facing the state, what she described as the “false dichotomy” of reviving the flagging economy and protecting public health.
Communities with higher concentrations of low-wage essential workers, who have been showing up for their jobs with little help from the state or federal government, are being disproportionately hurt by the latest surge, just as they have been for months.
“The communities that are most devastated by the pandemic are also most devastated by the economic crisis,” she said. Communities where the virus is spreading will have to stay under restrictions longer, which will inevitably prolong their economic recoveries.
In any case, Dr. Bibbins-Domingo said that the impulse to “play the blame game” and figure out distinct sources of transmission — Outdoor dining? Factories? Thanksgiving dinner tables? — is not productive.
“We don’t have the data to pinpoint with any type of accuracy whether it’s this versus that,” she said. “It also misses the point that once the transmission goes up as high as it is, we basically just have to lock down.”
(This article is part of the California Today newsletter. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox.)
California’s situation, in spite of early restrictions, has become a cautionary tale. [The New York Times]
Resistance to new orders is testing the state’s and Los Angeles County’s “abstinence-only” approach to gatherings. Experts say harm reduction may be better. [The Los Angeles Times]
State lawmakers started their session at the Capitol, despite concerns about the virus. [The Sacramento Bee]
Los Angeles Unified School District campuses that had been allowed to partly reopen will shut back down, the district announced. That’s a local decision; the latest stay-at-home orders don’t affect schools. [LAist]
Foster Farms will shut down a facility in Fresno after almost 200 workers there tested positive. [CalMatters]
Also on Monday, the governor announced the statewide rollout of a new app called CA Notify that will alert users if they may have been exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. It’s voluntary, which means it may not be as effective as you might hope, but it will be available starting on Thursday. [CA Notify]
Here’s what else to know today
Los Angeles’s new district attorney, George Gascón, was sworn in on Monday and immediately announced promised reforms, like eliminating cash bail. [KABC]
Here’s more about the race between Mr. Gascón and the incumbent, Jackie Lacey. [The New York Times]
If you missed it, protesters have been demonstrating outside his home in an effort to block the mayor from a Biden administration appointment. [The Los Angeles Times]
The choice of Attorney General Xavier Becerra to run the Department of Health and Human Services drew praise from environmental justice organizations. [The New York Times]
Southern California Edison has cut power to some 200,000 customers and said it was considering cutting power to more as dangerous Santa Ana winds blew through the region. [KTLA]
In a world in which streaming is replacing box office numbers, stars — whose pay is often tied to ticket sales — still want their money. [The New York Times]
Natalie Desselle, the comedic heart of “BAPS” and “Eve,” died on Monday at her home in Los Angeles. [The New York Times]
And Finally …
California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.
Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.