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COVID Surge: Stay-At-Home Order Extended After Bay Area ICU Capacity Drops To 3 Percent

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- California health officials provided an update Friday afternoon on the state's ICU capacity, confirming the Bay Area had dropped to its lowest level yet and would remain under the current stay-at-home order until capacity improves.

As of Friday, four regions -- San Joaquin Valley, Southern California, Greater Sacramento and the Bay Area -- remained under the Regional Stay at Home Order due to the ICU capacity of each respective region. While both the an Joaquin Valley and Southern California regions remain at zero percent capacity, the Bay Area region dropped to only 3% and the Greater Sacramento region was at 6.4%.

Only the Northern California region remained above the state's 15% ICU capacity threshold for the regional stay-at-home order.

"At this time, the Bay Area remains under the Regional Stay at Home Order," the release issued by the California Department of Public Health said. "The state will assess the region's ICU projections in the coming days and announce a formal decision on whether Bay Area meets criteria to exit the order."

Once a region's four-week ICU projection shows a capacity of greater than or equal to 15%, the order will be lifted for that area.

The already dire situation continued to deteriorate in South Bay hospitals.

The 7-day rolling average of new coronavirus cases in Santa Clara County has increased exponentially from around 100 cases or so per day in mid-October. By late December with the surging cases brought on by increased travel and exposure from the Thanksgiving holiday, that number had skyrocketed to well over ten times that.

Bay Area residents who marked Jan. 8 on their calendar in the hopes that the stay-at-home order would be lifted should think again.

"It ends Jan. 8, but the state has made very clear that it will be extended if ICU capacity projections remain below 15%," said Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams.

ICU bed capacity has been trending downwards for days, now falling to 7%, with just 25 ICU beds remaining for a county of two million people.

Because it takes about two weeks for people to end up in the hospital, the impact from new year's party attendance still has not yet been seen.

"We are extraordinarily concerned about what might be coming in the next few weeks; cases that we are yet to identify coming out of the holidays and New Year's, and what that might mean for increased hospitalizations a few weeks thereafter," said Williams. "Starting from what is already an unprecedented high level of hospitalizations that is putting so much strain on our healthcare system."

The average wait for ambulances trying to admit patients into the ER at Valley Medical Center In December doubled to nearly an hour.

A thousand people a day are testing positive for coronavirus, which translates into 100 new hospital patients per day. At this rate, a reopening blessed by state health officials is not happening anytime soon.

"The state has already extended it in Southern California and Central California. We have every indication that it will be extended here in the Bay Area as well, because the hospitalization situation has not improved since it was issued," explained Williams.

Anticipating the extension, San Jose resident Thao Pham told KPIX she has made no concrete plans for 2021.

"You know, we deal with it day by day and people are going out of business. And people need to go back to work and the economy has to get back on its feet, so I think people make their decisions whether they want to go outside or not," said Pham. "And if they can stay home and be safer they should. And if they have the choice to work and feed their family then they should."

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