COVID-19 spread likely to worsen due to holiday gatherings
The coronavirus' spread in California is likely to pick up this week as people gather for holidays like Christmas and then hold gatherings to celebrate the new year, the state's Health and Human Services secretary said Tuesday.
Given the virus' nature of incubating for up to two weeks, social gatherings during the last week of 2020 are likely to exacerbate the state's already struggling health care system in the coming weeks, according to HHS Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly.
The Bay Area still has 10.4% of its intensive care unit beds available, according to Ghaly, but other parts of the state like Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley have virtually no ICU beds left for additional coronavirus patients, due in part to gatherings for Thanksgiving.
"The celebrations that are planned, we hope some are canceled, some are done differently, so that we can maintain and bring down this spread, but we know and expect that some (gatherings) will happen," Ghaly said Tuesday during a briefing on the pandemic.
State and local public health officials have encouraged and even pleaded this month with state residents to avoid gathering with people from other households while new cases of the coronavirus multiply in much of California.
Limiting holiday gatherings will be especially crucial, Ghaly said, for moving regions out of the state's stay-at-home order, which is enforced for a minimum of three weeks in regions of the state with less than 15% ICU capacity.
The 11-county greater Bay Area would be eligible to leave the stay-at-home order Jan. 8 if its ICU capacity crossed that 15% threshold.
Ghaly said Tuesday that the Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions would have their stay-at-home orders extended beyond the three-week minimum.
"Christmas gathering and infection becomes amplified, a bit more exponential, over the New Year's celebrations and we could see the worst of it in early January," Ghaly said.
State partners with drugstores
CVS and Walgreens will provide vaccine doses from the pharmaceutical company Pfizer to residents and staff members in facilities like nursing homes and assisted living centers.
According to Newsom, CVS will provide vaccines to around 500 nursing homes, while Walgreens will do so at roughly 350 nursing homes over the next three to four weeks.
"By leveraging CVS and Walgreens resources, we can effectively deploy vaccines to residents and staff at our long-term care facilities, which are at higher risk of COVID transmission — and do it at no cost to the state or local government," Newsom said in a statement.
Residents and staff members in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are among the first in the state to receive the vaccine along with front-line health care workers, in-home health care workers, primary care clinic workers, laboratory workers, dental health clinic employees and pharmacy staff.
People over age 75 or age 65 if they have underlying health conditions, workers in education and child care, emergency services, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics, manufacturing and the industrial, residential and commercial sectors are all expected to begin receiving the vaccine in January on the current schedule.
In addition, unhoused residents and people in the state's prison system will be among the next pool of people with access to the vaccine.
Stay-at-home orders face likely extension
Stay-at-home orders currently in effect in the Bay Area and three other California regions likely will remain in place past the minimum three-week duration, state officials affirmed last Friday.
The state's stay-at-home order is triggered when a region's average intensive care unit capacity falls below 15%. The Bay Area, greater Sacramento, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California are under the order.
The state department's prediction was in line with a Dec. 21 announcement from Gov. Gavin Newsom. The governor said at that time that skyrocketing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations would probably keep the stay-at-home orders in effect for multiple regions across the state.
Eshoo receives COVID-19 vaccine
Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, rolled up her sleeve to receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 23, a moment the congresswoman shared in a tweet. "As more vaccines are shipped out, I encourage everyone to get vaccinated," she said. "We have to protect ourselves & others against this deadly virus."
Eshoo was vaccinated at the recommendation of the Office of the Attending Physician. She was able to end her self-quarantine that day after consulting with the office. Eshoo had been staying in her Washington, D.C., home as a precaution after learning a member of her staff tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 16.
Comprehensive COVID-19 coverage
View interactive charts tracking the spread of the coronavirus in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties online at paloaltoonline.atavist.com/tracking-the-coronavirus. Find a comprehensive collection of coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by The Almanac and its sister publications, Palo Alto Online, and the Mountain View Voice, at tinyurl.com/c19-Almanac.
CalMatters and Bay City News Service contributed to this report.
This story contains 893 words.
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