SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - California’s aggressive stay-at-home measures are improving the prospects of slowing the coronavirus pandemic, but the state is still on track to run out of hospital beds in mid-May, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday.
If residents continue to obey physical distancing orders, the most populous U.S. state will face a shortage of 16,000 hospital beds in six to eight weeks.
“These should not give people immediate hope,” he said of models showing the rate of infection increasing more slowly thanks to the public health restrictions. “These models are highly variable. They change every single day.”
The number of Californians requiring intensive care beds had quadrupled in less than a week, to 774 by Wednesday, Newsom said. About 8,600 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus infections in California, but public health experts have cautioned that those figures may not represent all of the cases because testing has been limited and results slow to arrive.
Newsom said the state is expanding its capacity but short of intensive care beds, estimating that 40% of newly added beds need to be capable of caring for intensive care patients who will likely need ventilators.
Still, the news offered some relief at a time when COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is ravaging other parts of the United States and the world.
In New York, where nearly 84,000 cases had been reported by Wednesday afternoon, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday ordered the closure of all New York City playgrounds to stop young people from gathering in violation of rules aimed at stanching the coronavirus outbreak at its U.S. epicenter.
Newsom stressed that it was far too soon to ease the rules about self-isolation or allow students to return to school.
“We are in a completely different place than the state of New York and I hope we will continue to be,” Newsom said. “But we won’t unless people continue to practice physical distancing and do their part.”
Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Chris Reese, Leslie Adler and Cynthia Osterman