Q: I’m not sure I understand why the stay-at-home orders and restrictions on restaurants and businesses are so strict. I know a lot of people who got COVID-19 but they weren’t much sicker than the flu. What’s the sudden panic for people to stay home and only be with people in their own household? I’d like to get together with friends and family tomorrow for Christmas, but I hear its been banned to do so.
A: Twas’ the night before Christmas and all through the house, hardly anyone was stirring because they all “stayed at home.”
Yes, a COVID Christmas (New Year’s or any of our winter holidays) will be different this year because the stay-at-home orders are stricter. There is a ban on nonessential travel and private gatherings of any size (if people are not already living in the same household). There are many reasons for this.
We are experiencing the highest number of total new COVID=19 cases (and deaths) per day and the chance of encountering someone who is contagious is much higher. Some of the people who contract COVID-19 do not get very sick, or they may even be asymptomatic and not be aware they are contagious.
For others, COVID-19 is a very serious and potentially fatal disease requiring hospitalization and treatment, often in the intensive care unit. You just don’t know who will get the serious infections or the complications and morbidities associated with the novel coronavirus.
Right now there are so many COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization that most of California’s hospitals have dropped below 15% capacity. That's the benchmark number for the initiation of stay-at-home orders, limitations on travel, and restrictions on restaurants, shopping and other businesses and services.
In fact, in some areas of California, the hospital capacity is at zero percent.
Many hospitals have reduced the numbers of elective surgeries that may require hospitalization because they just don’t have the beds. Not only do they need beds for COVID-19 patients, but also for heart attacks, strokes, accidents and other emergencies and illnesses.
Unfortunately Southern California (and the San Joaquin Valley) are two regions of California that are at zero percent ICU capacity.
So a huge issue remains, how can we reduce the number of new cases per day and the number of people requiring hospitalization? It will be very serious if the hospitals don’t have the capacity for more patients who are extremely sick with COVID-19.
The only way to contain the virus is for people to stay away from each other, wear masks and wash hands often (or use hand sanitizer).
The good news is, people are getting vaccinated. Right now front-line healthcare workers have started getting their vaccines. President-Elect Biden got his first COVID-19 vaccination on television Monday. As more vaccines become available, there is a tiered system in place for nursing homes, essential workers, and by age and risk groups.
Please obey the Governor’s stay-at-home mandate and be safe. You definitely don’t want to celebrate with family and someone winds up in the hospital.
Create new Christmas traditions, even if you live alone. It won’t be much longer until it’s your turn to be vaccinated. Stay safe and find creative new ways to have happy holidays. Peace and Blessings.