The United States topped 19 million COVID cases on Monday as hospital intensive care units were full to overflowing across much of California, a major U.S. virus hot spot, portending an extension of strict stay-at-home orders imposed this month, Reuters informed.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said mandatory constraints on social gatherings and business activities would almost certainly be renewed for at least three more weeks in Southern California – encompassing the state’s biggest metropolitan areas – and its agricultural heartland, the San Joaquin Valley.
Newsom said a formal decision on continuing the stay-at-home orders, among the most stringent in the United States, would be announced on Tuesday, based on trends projected by health authorities for the coming weeks.
He said greater diligence was needed in avoiding crowds and unnecessary travel in order to curb a raging pandemic that threatens to overwhelm healthcare systems before COVID vaccines can be made widely available to the public this coming spring.
“This is an anxious period,” Newsom told reporters in an online briefing.
Since U.S. regulatory approval was granted to two vaccines earlier this month, some 300,000 doses have been administered in California, the most populous U.S. state with 40 million residents, according to Newsom. Most of those injections have gone to front-line medical professionals.
Nationwide, well over 2 million people have received the first of the prescribed two-dose vaccine regimen, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
Among them were residents and staff of a nursing home that made headlines as ground zero of the nation’s earliest major COVID-19 outbreak – the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, outside Seattle.
Injections were given to nearly all of the facility’s 69 patients and most of its employees on Monday, 10 months after the first of 32 coronavirus-related deaths among residents was made public in late February, Life Care officials said.
“This is a great way to end the year,” the facility’s executive director, Ellie Schutt, said in a statement.
Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities around the country were among the hardest hit by the highly contagious respiratory virus early in the pandemic, reflecting the decision to make them a high-priority in the vaccine rollout.
More recently, an ominous surge of cases has strained hospitals to the breaking point in California and elsewhere, a consequence of increased holiday-season travel and socializing by Americans disregarding public health warnings.