Despite implementing some of the nation’s strictest lockdown measures, California is among the states seeing the highest number of new COVID-19 cases.
Last week, the Golden State surpassed 2 million confirmed cases of the virus as hospitals in several regions began to run very low on intensive care beds, Fox News reported.
Department of Public Health officials in Los Angeles County, the current COVID epicenter in California, said Thursday that some 14,000 residents per day were testing positive for the virus, as hospitals admitted about 1,000 people newly infected daily.
Also as of Thursday, state health officials reported roughly 24,000 deaths as well as more than 39,000 new cases and 312 deaths in the 24-hour period from Wednesday.
One health expert labeled the current spike a “viral tsunami. State officials have appealed to Taiwan and Australia to fill 3,000 temporary healthcare worker positions as hospitals become inundated.
“People have grown less sensitive to increasing case rates, less sensitive to the risk than at the start of the pandemic,” said Kyla Thomas, a sociologist from the University of Southern California’s Center for Social and Economic Research, in an interview with the Financial Times on Friday.
Meanwhile, Dr. Brian Gantwerker, who works in L.A. County, told the FinTimes that he “dreaded what the next several weeks would hold for Los Angeles.”
He added that he and other doctors in the country are fearful they may have to ration care, the spike in cases is so profound.
“It’s a viral tsunami,” Robert Kim-Farley, professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, told FinTimes.
Earlier in December, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that stricter shutdown measures would be put in place regionally depending on ICU bed availability. If capacity dropped below 15 percent, the measures would be implemented.
L.A. County was placed under the new restrictions just a few days later.
The new restrictions include an outright ban on all private gatherings of any size; only critical infrastructure and retail outlets can remain open; bars, restaurants, hair salons, barbershops, casinos, and indoor and outdoor playgrounds must largely close. Retailers can only operate at 20 percent capacity and restaurants can only serve outdoors, as well as take-out and delivery.
While outside of their homes, all residents must wear a mask and socially distance from others.
But officials say the spike is due to many Californians choosing to ignore the restrictions, mostly by continuing to gather in large groups with people who do not live in their households.
Meanwhile, other experts have argued against tightening restrictions at all, suggesting that officials should opt to protect the most vulnerable populations instead.
“The right approach, before the vaccine, is to work to protect the elderly. Those are the people – especially living in nursing homes – are the ones who are at the highest risk of death if they were to get infected by” the virus, said Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, earlier this month.
The idea would be to protect the elderly, frontline essential workers, and others who have a lot of contact with the public such as mass transit workers and janitors.
“Whereas these broad lockdowns, I think they cause a lot of harm to the non-elderly. They’re not doing very much to slow the spread of the disease,” he argued.
Meanwhile, World Health Organization rep Dr. David Nabarro said that strict lockdowns ought to only be used as a last resort.
“We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” he told British publication the Spectator.
Also, Dr. Marc Spiegel, a Fox News contributor, has also railed against tougher shutdowns, arguing instead for a model borrowed from the 1918 Spanish Flu in what he calls a “laser lockdown.”
“I want to do laser lockdowns where we close things that are major offenders,” Siegel told the network. “Of course, bars are a problem — in the middle of the night with people shouting and drinking and swearing at each other or whatever else you do in bars with poor ventilation. But how does that apply to outdoor restaurants with physical distancing?”
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