California Projects Peak Coronavirus Infections in Mid-May, Hospitals to Be Overwhelmed

Coronavirus cases in California could peak around mid-May, with hospital bed occupancy expected to reach nearly 700,000 if no intervention efforts are made, California Governor Gavin Newsom has said. But the peak may occur sooner—around the end of April—according to another projection from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) of the University of Washington.

Regardless of when exactly the peak occurs, hospitals across the state will be overwhelmed. Newsom signed an executive order Wednesday to further allocate funds towards securing more ICU [intensive care unit] beds and other relief efforts, the office of the governor confirmed in a statement.

The virus, which was first detected in Wuhan, China, has infected more than 952,000 people across 180 countries and regions, including the U.S., which has the largest infected population in the world, with more than 216,700 confirmed cases, as of Thursday, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

More than 202,500 have recovered from infection, including nearly 90 percent of China's infected population of over 82,400 people and more than 8,700 patients in the U.S. But over 48,300 have died after contracting the virus, including more than 5,000 in the U.S.

New York is still the worst-hit state in the country by a large margin, reporting more than 87,712 cases, according to the latest figures from the office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

But California is among the top five worst-hit states, reporting nearly 10,000 cases, including 215 deaths, as of Thursday.

Los Angeles County has the highest number of confirmed cases (3,528 infections), followed by the counties of Santa Clara (956), San Diego (849), Orange (606) and San Francisco (434).

Los Angeles also has the highest death toll of 66 deaths, followed by Santa Clara (32 deaths), San Diego (15) and Riverside (13), while San Francisco has seven fatalities.

I’m going to REPEAT. REPEAT. REPEAT.

The most important thing we can do is STAY HOME and practice physical distancing. That’s how we flatten the curve. pic.twitter.com/3tg5w1woTO

— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) April 1, 2020

The number of infections in California is expected to surge around mid-May, according to a model looking at projected hospital bed occupancy released on Newsom's official Twitter account. The projected hospital bed occupancy around mid-May is about 60,000 if intervention measures are taken, according to the model.

The latest executive order signed by Newsom outlines the "state must prepare for 50,000 additional hospital beds for potential COVID-19 hospitalizations in the coming weeks."

It also notes: "Healthcare providers on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 require personal protective equipment and other medical equipment and supplies to support a hospital surge."

"We're looking [at] about 27,000 ICU beds that we will need to procure in this state," Newsom said on Thursday. "The good news is we have time," he said.

"[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."

As of Wednesday, there were reported to be 1,855 infected patients in hospitals, 774 of whom are in the ICU, Newsom confirmed in a post on his official Twitter account.

Venice beach, California, virus mask, March 2020
Palm trees stand behind a street art piece by artist Pony Wave depicting two people kissing while wearing face masks on Venice Beach on March 21, 2020 in Venice, California. Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person, the World Health Organization (WHO) advises. Getty Images

But a separate projection model released by IHME shows the saturation point in California infections could hit sooner, around late April. The model predicts peak use of resources (including hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators) will be on April 26, when 12,421 beds, 1,866 ICU beds and 1,493 ventilators are expected to be required. The model also predicts April 26 will mark the peak daily death toll of 119, while the total number of deaths is expected to reach 5,068 by August 4.

California residents are currently under a "stay at home" order, which requires them to remain at home. All non-essential businesses, including restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and other places of public gatherings, are also closed.

Earlier this month, Newsom warned that more than 25 million people (more than half of the state's population) could be infected in the next few weeks if no mitigation measures are implemented.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the spread of COVID-19 across the U.S.

This infographic shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases by state.
This infographic shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases by state.

Data on COVID-19 cases is from Johns Hopkins University unless otherwise stated.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.