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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."

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

J&J says its one-shot vaccine is 66% effective against moderate to severe COVID

Photo: Thiago Prudêncio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson announced Friday that its single-shot coronavirus vaccine was 66% effective in protecting against moderate to severe COVID-19 disease in Phase 3 trials, which was comprised of nearly 44,000 participants across eight countries.

Between the lines: The vaccine was 72% effective in the U.S., but only 57% effective in South Africa, where a more contagious variant has been spreading. It prevented 85% of severe infections and 100% of hospitalizations and deaths, according to the company.

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Science helps New Zealand avoid another coronavirus lockdown

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) visits a lab at Auckland University in December. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand has avoided locking down for a second time over COVID-19 community cases because of a swift, science-led response.

Why it matters: The Health Ministry said in an email to Axios Friday there's "no evidence of community transmission" despite three people testing positive after leaving managed hotel isolation. That means Kiwis can continue to visit bars, restaurants and events as much of the world remains on lockdown.