California activates mass mortality program following rise in Covid-19 infections, purchases 5,000 additional body bags

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At a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the activation of the program, which coordinates self-help activities between state and local agencies in times of crisis, was in direct response to the outbreak of cases and deaths from Covid-19.

Sixty refrigerated storage units, each over 50 feet long, will be used statewide for emergency overflow for coroners and morgues.

Newsom said the program addresses what it called “sobering realities” in the state’s battle against the pandemic.

“I don’t want people to scare people, but it’s a fatal disease. And we need to be aware of where we are on this current journey together, to the vaccine. We are not at the finish line, ”said the governor. .

California health officials on Tuesday announced the state’s fifth consecutive day of more than 30,000 new Covid-19 infections. The daily average of new Covid-19 deaths in California was 163 on December 14, nearly four times the death rate a month earlier.
The total number of deaths in the state is 21,188 as of Tuesday. Nationally, the toll from the pandemic passed 300,000 dead on Monday as health officials warn of no immediate signs of abating.

Hospitalizations and admissions to intensive care units in California are at record levels as stay-at-home orders were passed for large parts of the state last week.

The restrictions are triggered by the fact that a particular part of the state has less than 15% availability in intensive care; Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions are at less than 2% critical care availability as of Tuesday, and the San Joaquin Valley briefly dipped to zero over the weekend before rebounding , according to Newsom.

About 3,000 patients are currently being treated in intensive care units statewide, putting more strain on the California health care system.

Newsom stressed that this didn’t mean that local hospitals were completely short of space, but that staffing remained the most immediate challenge.

He signed an executive order temporarily rescinding certain nurse-to-patient ratios, and the state is adding nurses through contract agencies, the California National Guard, and the California Health Corps.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is providing 80 paramedics and emergency medical technicians, and the state has requested 200 additional health workers from the Department of Defense.

The state is deploying resources to help “those frontline health workers, these nurses in particular, who are doing nothing but heroic work every day and asking for a little more over the next very difficult weeks,” a- he declared.

CNN’s Travis Caldwell contributed to this report.

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