Hospital tent

Staff members work inside a tent set up outside the Sutter Tracy Community Hospital emergency room.

It has been one year since the first COVID-19 cases were reported in California.

During his press conference on Tuesday, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, in a followup to Monday’s press conference with Governor Gavin Newsom, explained that over the past year health officials have seen that the rise and fall of reports of new COVID-19 cases occurs a few weeks ahead of the rise and fall of hospitalizations.

Ghaly said that with the decrease in reports of new cases in the past few weeks he expects a similar decrease in the need for ICU beds four weeks from now. While there is 0% capacity reported across hospitals in the San JoaquinValley region this week, Ghaly expects there will be 22.3% ICU capacity available by Feb. 21.

He explained that the state used current ICU data when it issued its stay-at-home order at the start of December, but always expected to use projections to determine when it would be safe to lift that order.

“We know today’s cases become hospital cases in about two weeks, ICU cases three to four weeks later, so if we want to really determine what the impact is of our current case numbers, our current transmission rates, our current test positivity, on where we’re going to be in the hospitals we have to look about four weeks out,” he said.

“That’s why we came into it one way, and exited the order in a different way.”

California Department of Public Health statistics show that reports of new cases peaked on Dec. 21, with a seven-day average of about 43,900 new daily cases, and again on Jan. 12 at 42,690. Reports of new cases have been on the decline since then, with a seven-day average of just under 22,320 on Monday.

San JoaquinCounty’s 7-day average of new daily cases peaked on Dec. 23 at just over 800. That average is down to just under 320 as of Wednesday. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have leveled off and are starting to decline, reaching a peak of 355 across the county’s seven hospitals on Jan. 6, with 255 reported on Wednesday.

The San Joaquin County Emergency Medical Services Agency reports that hospitalizations have decreased by 18.3% just in the past week.

ICU numbers remain high, though. San JoaquinCounty’s hospitals have been above 100% of their ICU capacity since early November, according to statistics from the San Joaquin County Emergency Medical Services Agency.

Since the second week of December, COVID-19 patients have accounted for about 60% of the county’s usual ICU capacity. Nearly every day since Dec. 21, more than 80 COVID-19 patients have been in the county’s ICUs, peaking at 106 on Jan. 4, when overall ICU commitments across the county — COVID and non-COVID — reached 173 patients.

As of Wednesday the county had 140 ICU beds in use, including 76 COVID-19 patients. That puts the county at 141% of its ICU capacity, meaning that hospitals have to accommodate those patients outside of their usual ICU capabilities.

The number of deaths continues to be high as well. Since the start of the pandemic 844 people have died in San JoaquinCounty. That includes 330 people since the start of December, with 193 of those deaths since the start of January.

• Contact Bob Brownne at brownne@tracypress.com, or call 209-830-4227.

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