Dec 16, 2020 - Health

California orders 5,000 body bags amid "most intense" coronavirus surge

Photo of a masked Gavin Newsom watching a masked doctor with a needle
California Gov. Gavin Newsom watches as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center on Dec. 14. Photo: Jae C. Hong-Pool via Getty

California has ordered 5,000 body bags as the state undergoes its "most intense" COVID-19 surge to date, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday.

Why it matters: California saw 32,326 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and has reached a 14-day average positivity rate of 10.7%, its highest since the pandemic began.

  • With daily COVID deaths four times higher than they were just a month ago, the state has placed 60 53-foot refrigerated storage units on standby and activated its coroner mutual aid and mass fatality program.

The big picture: The first 33,150 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived in California this week, but intensive care units are increasingly overloaded. The state has had to establish medical overflow facilities in anticipation of increased case counts.

  • The vaccine is good news, Newsom said. But it won't resolve the surge of cases and hospitalizations this holiday season.
  • In late November, California instituted a strict stay-at-home order for regions with less than 15% ICU capacity.
  • Health care workers and residents in long-term care facilities will receive vaccines first.

The bottom line: "This is a deadly disease, and we need to be mindful of where we are," Newsom said. "We are not at the finish line yet."

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