LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — As of Wednesday, more than 1,800 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state of California, but the governor is planning well beyond that for thousands more patients.
And, for the first time, California has released a timetable for the spread of the virus that shows the state could reach the peak of infection in mid-May and begin to overwhelm hospital systems.
To prevent that from happening, the state is desperately trying to add intensive care unit beds now.
“We’re looking about 27,000 ICU beds that we will need to procure in this state,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said. “The good news is we have time.”
And the state is looking to buy even more time to prepare by delaying the spread of the virus, and pleading with everyone to keep staying at home.
“[There is] no greater impact on changing that curve, buying us more time to prepare for this surge and for that peak, than physical distancing,” Newsom said.
And Dr. Anne Rimoin with the University of California Los Angeles School of Public Health agrees.
“We have to take it very seriously,” she said. “And we have to do everything we can, pulling together by staying apart.”
A model from the University of Washington shows deaths in California could peak at the end of April/beginning of May with about 122 new deaths per day, and around 5,000 dead by the end of summer.
But that is just one projection.
“Models help us understanding what our future can be,” Rimoin said. “It’s not our destiny.”
Experts say that by staying home, isolating and quarantining when told, the number of deaths can be limited and worse-case scenarios avoided.
“We’re going to have to make very hard decisions about who gets a ventilator and who does not, who gets care and who doesn’t,” Rimoin said. “This is what’s happened here in Italy and that could very well happen here if we do not take it seriously.”
But that University of Washington projection can still change.
“This model can be improved if we continue to bring down the curve, bend it further down,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services secretary, said. “We may be able to buy ourselves more time and ensure that we have the services, both in ventilators ICU beds and other equipment and supplies, to care for all those people who need it.”
Current models show deaths in California could be only a third of what New York is expecting – an early sign that the stay at home order is working to flatten the curve.