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Governor takes critical look at ICU capacity; discusses what’s next

By Debra Moore

[email protected]

Gov. Newsom had a message for Californians today: Though the state is in a dire situation as coronavirus cases continue to increase and impact health care capacity, there is light at the end of the tunnel — we just need to be extra vigilant for the next couple of months.

California’s numbers with regard to COVID-19 hospitalizations are daunting: 75 percent of ICU beds are filled now; with a 112 percent need predicted by Dec. 24.

And Plumas County isn’t immune from the ramifications of an ICU bed shortage. Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s Secretary of Health, said during a news conference today “We are doing all that we can to anticipate surge (adding beds, facilities) critical in rural areas as well.” The state is taking a regional approach to try and ensure that beds will be available; with 11 surge facilities available to be activated if needed. One of the closest options would be the former Arco Arena in Sacramento.

Not only are the beds themselves an issue, but staffing is as well. And the shortage of ICU beds doesn’t just impact those diagnosed with coronavirus; it impacts anyone who needs a critical level of care — from those with other illnesses to those involved in a vehicle accident.

Plumas District Hospital is preparing in the event that a patient would need to be hospitalized in county. It has three ventilators available, as well as trained staff, but it would be a course of care of last resort for patient.

Stay at home order?

Both Newsom and Ghaly warned that more drastic measures could be taken if cases and hospitalizations continue to rise. Ghaly said that ICU capacity would drive the need for more restrictions.

However Gov. Newsom said it’s not a given. “Before we run with headlines; we don’t anticipate this,” he said. “It’s in the absence of making better decisions. We intend to bend this proverbial curve.”

If more restrictions become necessary, Newsom said they would be more “surgical” in their implementation. “Really working by industry and sector to look at the data and let it guide us,” Newsom said. “We are trying to be much more specific … sector by sector; county by county.”

Ghaly said that he and his staff have been working with experts across the nation as well. “Everybody wants us to identify the sector where it’s happening,” he said, but “It’s happening in the community.”

Both Newsom and Ghaly stressed that any activity now carries more risk for exposure than those same activities represented even a month ago. They encourage mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing, and avoiding the mixing of households. They advise anyone who traveled for the Thanksgiving holiday to quarantine for 14 days.

“I’m grateful to all Californians that they take this seriously,” Newsom said. “These are challenging things to do.”

He added that the state is working the federal government with regard to the timeframe required. There has been some recent discussion about reducing the quarantine period from 14 days to 10. Newsom admitted that there’s no enforcement; that it’s on the honor system, but he’s hopeful that the state’s citizenry will go into “this second half of the state’s response doing what’s right.”

Gov. Newsom said that he has a “deep empathy for families who go through this” and he hopes that “people realize the magnitude of this moment.” Because even though it’s been difficult, there is a “bright light at the end of the tunnel.”


Newsom reported that 327,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are scheduled to arrive in the state within the next three weeks. This represents the state’s share of the first round of doses. The second dose of the vaccine would be shipped three weeks later.

And Pfizer isn’t the only vaccine on the horizon. “Moderna is right behind it,” he said, adding that there are more coming behind Pfizer and Moderna, with dozens in the trial phase.

While healthcare workers are slated to receive the first doses, a specific plan will be released later this week as to how the vaccines will be rolled out.

The state’s scientific safety committee (an 11-member body) is reviewing the data that has been presented to the FDA with regard to the vaccines. Newsom said the review isn’t intended to delay the distribution of the vaccine, but is “basically to support trust building.”

Ghaly said that the effort is to “really endorse that this is something that is safe.” He quoted the governor in saying, “Vaccine implementation will begin at the speed of trust.”


Gov. Newsom said that the state’s current PPE stockpile is the largest in the U.S. (even larger than the national government). Within that stockpile there are a half-billion masks; additional gowns, and gloves. The state has already distributed more than 600 million masks. It also has move ventilators than any other state.

Help for small businesses

“If we are preparing for more restrictions, we are more mindful than ever of the economic impact and consequences of these restrictions,” Newsom said.

He said that a three-month extension would be granted for businesses to pay their sales taxes, and that half a billion dollars (from the state’s reserve funds) would be allocated in grants of up to $25,000 to businesses and nonprofits. The governor described it as “a bridge” to what is coming next when the legislature returns. More details on these programs can be found at


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