More than 1,000 people have died of Covid-19 in Los Angeles County over the past week as California grapples with surging cases and overwhelmed hospitals.
“L.A. County reached the terrible milestone of more than 11,000 deaths due to Covid-19,” Los Angeles County DPH Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said in a statement, as she urged all residents to stay home and follow public health orders. “As a community, we must commit to stopping the spread of Covid-19 in its tracks so that we can save as many lives as possible.”
The pandemic has devastated much of the state. On Tuesday, the state reported 368 new coronavirus deaths – pushing the number of lives lost in the state to 27,000 since the start of the pandemic. Some 2.45 million have been infected.
The surge in cases has put California at the epicenter of the nation’s struggle against coronavirus.
The number of people hospitalized with the virus in the state has reached a grim record with more than 22,000 people receiving in-patient treatment Tuesday, the state reported. About 21% of those patients are in intensive care units.
In Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, ICUs have reached capacity. In hopes of easing the strain so patients can continue to receive care, the state has ordered hospitals with 10% or less ICU capacity in those regions to delay non-essential and non-life-threatening surgeries.
“If we continue to see an alarming increase of COVID-19 patient admissions at hospitals statewide, some facilities may not be able to provide the critical and necessary care Californians need, whether those patients have COVID-19 or another medical condition,” said Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, California Department of Public Health director and state public health officer.
Despite the intensity of the fight against the virus, just 27% of the vaccines distributed have made it into the arms of Californians.
“Everyone is scrambling to get as many vaccinators as possible while every staff member is needed to assist with the surge,” Ferrer said.
In Mendocino County in Northern California, a broken freezer storing the Moderna vaccine forced officials at Adventist Health Ukiah Valley Medical Center to administer all 830 doses in two hours.
The hospital discovered Tuesday morning that a freezer full of vaccine had exceeded the temperature for storage nine hours earlier. The Moderna vaccine can last at room temperature for 12 hours.
“The reality is we were presented with a tough situation, and we weren’t going to let any vaccine go to waste,” hospital CEO Judson Howe told CNN.
But vaccines are only part of the solution to California’s coronavirus crisis, Ferrer said.
“While vaccines are a powerful tool, we do not need to wait for vaccines to stop new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and death. We can do that now,” Ferrer said in a statement. “It takes every business and every resident to purposefully follow public health directives and safety measures. Please stay home and leave only for essential work or essential services.”
CNN’s Sarah Moon, Stella Chan and Cheri Mossburg contributed to this report.