While it's too soon to say how the remainder of the year and the first weeks of the new year will look for the Bay Area's COVID numbers, there are at least signs that, for the moment, local hospitals have avoided seeing the unmanageable crush of new patients that had been predicted around Christmas.
Perhaps lockdown orders had their desired effect, or perhaps the Bay Area has gotten at least a little bit lucky again as hospitalization numbers have plateaued and even dipped in some counties in recent days. In early December, when Governor Gavin Newsom and SF Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax talked about the surge in COVID cases, there were dire predictions about hospitals running out of room to treat patients by around December 25 if nothing changed. And now, at least preliminarily, there are signs of a plateau in severe cases requiring hospital stays.
San Francisco had 193 confirmed and suspected COVID patients in hospitals as of Saturday, December 26 — up from the day before but still one patient fewer than a peak of 194 hospitalizations on December 23. And daily new case numbers, as Dr. Colfax noted last week, continue to slide downward, with 155 new cases recorded Monday — down from an average of 247 new cases per day in the first three weeks of December.
Around the Bay Area, there were 1980 COVID patients in hospitals on Saturday — a peak since the pandemic began, but not significantly higher than the 1978 counted on December 23. Hospitalized cases in the Bay Area dropped on Christmas Eve by 55 patients, or 2.8%, and there were also small drops in the previous week for the first time in over a month. [Update: As of Sunday, December 27, Bay Area hospitalizations ticked up again by 54 patients or 2.7% to 2,034.]
ICU bed availability hovered around 11% at Bay Area hospitals through the holiday weekend.
Things remain grim in the San Joaquin Valley and in Southern California, as the Chronicle reports, where there are no remaining ICU beds and hospitals were reporting needing to treat patients in acute-care beds instead.
"We cannot underscore enough the urgent need for all Californians to stay home as much as possible," said the California Department of Public Health in a statement on Sunday. "Doctors, nurses and health care staff are doing everything possible to treat every patient who walks through their doors, whether they have COVID-19 or other serious medical conditions. We know how hard this is for each and every one of us — but we must do our part by staying home as this is truly the only way we will help save lives."
Several Bay Area hospitals, including Good Samaritan Hospital and Regional Medical Center in San Jose and all Kaiser facilities in Northern California, are canceling all elective and non-emergency surgeries through the new year — with Kaiser saying that all such surgeries have been postponed until after January 4.
Sutter Health announced last week that it, too, was postponing some elective surgeries.
Santa Clara County continues to see the highest case numbers and most hospitalizations of any county in the Bay Area, with over 650 COVID patients currently hospitalized there. On Saturday, Santa Clara County added 2,212 new COVID cases, the most of any day in the pandemic date, with another 1,672 added on Sunday.
As the Mercury News notes, if we are seeing a plateau in the Bay Area, that is certainly not guaranteed to be happening statewide, and it could just be temporary. Across the state, there were 19,237 COVID patients in hospitals as of Saturday — three times as many as there were a month earlier, on Thanksgiving.
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