California, the richest and most populous state of the richest country in the world, has long had a shortage of hospital beds – just 1.8 beds per 1,000 people, according to 2018 data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Now a large number of coronavirus cases have wiped out the capacity of the intensive care unit in a large part of the state.
Southern California, the most populous region, and San Joaquin Valley, a central region, have 0 percent ICU capacity, which will keep them under a homeland until at least Dec. 28, the California Department of Public Health said Saturday.
Intensive care units in the Bay region have a capacity of 11.3 percent and the Greater Sacramento region has 16.9 percent capacity. Both are likely to remain under order at least until the new year.
Prior to the pandemic, California’s ratio of hospital beds per person was only slightly higher than the state of Washington and Oregon, both of which ranked last in the country. Many of the state hospitals kept their number of beds low to limit the cost.
The ICU beds are also limited: according to KFF’s 2018 data, there were only 2.1 beds per 10,000 people, more than just ten other states.
California is the first U.S. state to report more than 2 million cases of coronavirus so far. According to a database of the New York Times, on Friday the weekly average of new cases per day in the state was 36,418. This is an increase of 21 percent over two weeks earlier.
The situation is now out of control, officials and health workers have warned. At the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in South Los Angeles, resources are so extensive that gurneys are placed in the gift shop and the vestibule is used to treat patients. And it is another obstacle to keep healthcare facilities adequately staffed.