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Latest coronavirus: California hospitalizations drop below 15,000, expected to halve in months

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Peter Wells in New York

Coronavirus hospitalizations in California fell below 15,000 for the first time since mid-December and are expected to drop by more than half over the next month.

The number of people currently in California hospitals has fallen to 14,999, according to data released Tuesday by the state’s health department. It was the first time below the 15,000 level since figures reported on December 14.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly at his regular press conference on Tuesday said hospitalizations are currently 14,221, likely reflecting more up-to-date data.

Dr Ghaly said based on current trends in infections statewide, the number of hospitalizations is expected to drop to 6,557 by March 4.

The number of available intensive care unit beds statewide rose to 1,284, according to health department data, the highest level since early January. The availability of intensive care beds became a crucial metric in December that determined when large areas of California would come under stay-at-home orders. Areas like southern California, which includes hard-hit Los Angeles, and the San Joaquin Valley, have gone weeks without the availability of regular intensive care beds.

By early March, the five regions of California are expected to have more than 30% of ICU beds available, Dr Ghaly said.

12,064 additional new infections were reported, up from 15,358 on Monday. It was the smallest number of new cases since the end of November.

Another 422 deaths have been attributed to the coronavirus, double the number reported on Monday and compared to last week’s average of around 543 deaths per day.

At the end of January, encouraging trends in intensive care bed utilization, hospitalizations and cases paved the way for Gov. Gavin Newsom to remove the stay-at-home order for all counties. As of Tuesday, 54 of California’s 58 counties are still in the purple category, which places the strictest restrictions on business activities and social gatherings.

Although trends in statewide cases are on the decline, Dr Ghaly said they still remain high and called for heightened vigilance ahead of the next Super Bowl final in the National Football League and Lunar New Year celebrations to keep them from turning into “spread events”.

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