State has administered just 35% of COVID-19 vaccines received to date

A healthcare worker checks on patients inside an oxygen tent outside the emergency room at the Community Hospital of Huntington Park in California

The county has doubled its number of COVID-19 cases in slightly more than a month as the virus spikes throughout Southern California.

At the meeting, a state working group of experts unveiled newly refined priorities for which groups should be vaccinated after health care workers and nursing home residents.

Here in Claremont there have been 42 new infections in the last two days, for a cumulative total of 1,587.

That means California should start coordinating patient care at the state level where officials can see the big picture on which hospitals are best equipped at any given moment, instead of allowing local dispatchers to follow the usual practice of sending ambulances to the nearest facility, she said.

Amid the unprecendented caseloads, hospitals are trying to prepare for the possibility that they may have to ration care for lack of staff and beds.

Gavin Newsom said the state budget proposal he will release Friday will include a $4.5 billion economic recovery package.

The county's cumulative coronavirus case count now tops 853,000.

The state this week ordered hospitals in the hardest-hit areas to delay many elective surgeries in order to free up space. "All of us could feel the impacts if our hospitals are overwhelmed", he said.

Calling the directive a form of "countywide triage", Eckstein said it's the "worst nightmare" of any first responder but also stressed that patients who've experienced the sorts of trauma or cardiac arrest noted in the directive don't often survive.

Los Angeles County is now dealing with a surge in coronavirus cases.

Speaking about the four Department of Health Services hospitals, Dr. Ghaly said over half of beds are filled with COVID-19 positive patients, and three quarters of people receiving critical care services in the intensive care units are there because of COVID-19.

Nathan Fletcher, chair of the county Board of Supervisors, said during the county's weekly COVID-19 briefing that experts continue to predict a significant surge of additional cases, and eventually hospitalizations, connected to the Christmas-New Year's Eve holiday week.

California Hospital Association spokeswoman Jan Emerson-Shea said hospitals are applying for the waivers only after they have no other choice left to care for the patients they have.

Los Angeles County broke past the 8,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19 milestone on Wednesday, while also recording a near record-high number of deaths.

The experience at some Los Angeles area vaccination sites foreshadows some of the challenges to come.

"Too many families have been financially devastated by this pandemic including countless families in the Inland Empire", said Assemblywoman Eloise Gómez, D-San Bernardino. "We haven't had a situation where two people are out of breath and one person gets a ventilator. We need to get ambulances back out in the streets". It had taken more than nine months to reach 400,000.

The community spread is so acute now that one in every five people who test for the coronavirus receive a positive result. "We're not going to dodge this math". "We need national leadership, we need vaccines and we need resources to pay for them".

Meantime, in an effort to keep people closer to home, the Newsom administration issued a more strident travel advisory that says people from out of state are "strongly discouraged" from entering California, and Californians should avoid non-essential travel more than 120 miles from home.

"Focus on nothing other than saving lives for the next few weeks".

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