By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) -There are no intensive care beds available in densely populated Southern California or the state’s agricultural San Joaquin Valley, together home to nearly 30 million people, amid a deadly surge of COVID-19, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday.
The pandemic is crushing hospitals in the most-populous U.S. state, even as the U.S. government and two of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains began a nationwide campaign on Monday to vaccinate nursing home residents against the highly contagious respiratory disease.
The U.S. death toll from the virus has accelerated in recent weeks to 2,627 per day on a seven-day average, according to a Reuters tally.
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has said U.S. COVID-19 deaths will peak in January, when its widely cited model projects that more than 100,000 people will die as the toll marches to nearly 562,000 by April 1.
Nationwide, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients on Monday stood at nearly 113,400, near a record high of over 114,200 set on Friday, according to a Reuters tally.
In California, Newsom told a remote news conference he had requested help from nurses, doctors and medical technicians in the U.S. military, and is hoping that 200 people can be deployed. The state has also sent nearly 700 additional medical staff to beleaguered hospitals, and opened up clinics in unused state buildings, a closed sports arena and other locations.
California Secretary of Health and Human Services Mark Ghaly said many hospitals in the state may also soon run out of room for patients who need to be admitted but do not require intensive care.
Ghaly told the news conference the current surge was related to gatherings that took place over the Thanksgiving holiday and that a similar surge is expected after Christmas and New Year’s, he said.
Newsom pleaded with Californians to comply with stay-at-home orders that restrict activity in most but not all of the state. “We are not victims of fate,” he said.
The governor added that the strain of the virus ravaging California was not the new, highly contagious version emerging in the UK, Newsom said.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Peter Cooney)