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Lockdown continues for Valley
Covid sign
Freeway sign near Keyes advises Californians to wash their hands and other steps to reduce the spreading of COVID-19. - photo by Jeff Benziger

The stay-at-home order issued earlier this month will be extending into the new year as state health officials plea for people to forgo gathering for the holiday.

The three-week stay-at-home order for the San Joaquin Valley region would have ended Dec. 28, but since the ICU capacity remains far below the 15 percent threshold and COVID-19 cases continue to mount. Gov. Gavin Newsom said yesterday that the order is being extended beyond the initial three weeks.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced Tuesday that the state would extend strict stay-at-home orders for the Valley and Southern California regions.

California is now reporting the highest number of new daily COVID-19 cases per capita in the country.

According to the weekend’s CDC update, California has an average of 100.5 daily cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, which places it ahead of second-place Tennessee, which saw an average of 89.6 daily cases per 100,000 residents over the same period.

Ghaly said the counties where the stay-at-home orders are being extended does not necessarily mean they will remain in place for another three weeks.

Newsom said this week that the state is preparing for a surge on top of a surge of COVID-19 cases after December’s holiday gatherings. Ghaly urged Californians to celebrate New Year’s Eve virtually and only with members of their household.

The stay-at-home order closed down bars, wineries, personal services, hair salons and barbershops. Retail stores are allowed to remain open, but with occupancy set at 20 percent. Restaurants are only allowed to do take-out or delivery. Gyms must operate outdoors. Schools and critical industries, like grocery stores, will be allowed to remain open. Residents are asked to stay at home unless out to buy groceries, go to pharmacies or are essential workers.

Last week healthcare officials from several hospitals in the state held a joint teleconference to spread the message that the hospitals are experiencing surges that are not sustainable. They asked people to not gather with people outside their households.

The healthcare officials from Dignity Health, Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health said the current surge is fueled in large part by people who gathered for the Thanksgiving holiday. They’re championing the “Don’t Share Your Air” campaign to keep hospitals from being overrun after the holidays.

“California is in a crisis mode in its health systems,” said Dignity Health spokesman Thomas McGinn.

As of yesterday, Stanislaus County had recorded 33,623 positive COVID-19 cases and 586 deaths. Approximately 550,660 persons live in the county. The vast majority of persons with COVID-19 fully recover and require no hospitalization. As of yesterday, there are 341 people hospitalized with the virus and 71 in intensive care units. The Stanislaus County Health Services Agency said ICU bed availability is at 1.9 percent.

Newsom announced on Monday that California has opted in to the federal COVID-19 Pharmacy Partnership. At no cost to the state or local government, CVS and Walgreens will administer the Pfizer vaccine to residents and staff in long-term care facilities. CVS and Walgreens will start with nursing homes, which will take an estimated 3-4 weeks, and then vaccinate staff and residents in assisted living, residential care and other long-term care facilities.

“Vaccinating those most vulnerable among us is critical to fighting this virus,” said Newsom. “By leveraging CVS and Walgreens resources, we can effectively deploy vaccines to residents and staff at our long-term care facilities, which are at higher risk of Covid transmission – and do it at no cost to the state or local government.”

The program will enable counties to leverage CVS and Walgreens pharmacy staff to administer the vaccine more broadly with pharmacy staff going directly to care facilities. Skilled nursing facilities will receive vaccine from staff from CVS and Walgreens. Approximately 499 nursing homes will be provided vaccine by CVS and 357 by Walgreens.

 The vaccines will be administered by pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and nurses. Pharmacy technicians are participating under a recent waiver by the Board of Pharmacy that requires appropriate supervision under California law and specialized training.