Digital Media Center
Bryant-Denny Stadium, Gate 61
920 Paul Bryant Drive
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0370
(800) 654-4262

© 2024 Alabama Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Register for Glenn Miller Tickets in Mobile on May 30.

California Is 1st State To Hit 2 Million Cases, And Hospitals Are Out Of ICU Beds

The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in California has surpassed 2 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, as the virus has spread with startling speed in the state.

It's the first state to pass that number. In the last day, accordingto Johns Hopkins, California saw 43,986 new cases and 319 deaths.

The state's first million cases happened over the course of nearly 10 months, as the Los Angeles Times noted. The second million took just six weeks.

Cases in the state have skyrocketed over the last two months. The positivity rate has been steadily rising in that period, and is now at 12.4% — 5 points higher than it was three weeks ago.

The surge is overwhelming hospitals in many parts of the state. More than 19,700 people are currently hospitalized with the virus, with more than 4,000 people in intensive care.

ICU capacity is under enormous strain. By the state's count, there were 1,302 ICU beds available in a state of nearly 40 million people.

In Los Angeles County, the Times found that as of 9 a.m. Sunday, there were just 30 available ICU beds – a county that's home to 10 million people.

In Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, ICU capacity is zero, according to the state Department of Public Health.

"We don't have space for anybody. We've been holding patients for days because we can't get them transferred, can't get beds for them," Alexis Lenz, an emergency room physician at the medical center in Imperial County, told The Associated Press.

California ranks 36th among the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in cases per 100,000 people since the pandemic began, the Times reported.

"Another spike in cases in the winter holidays will be disastrous for our hospital system and ultimately will mean many more people simply won't be with us in 2021," said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, the AP reported.

Clinicians work Wednesday in the former lobby of St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, which has been converted into a care space to treat suspected COVID-19 patients.
Mario Tama / Getty Images
Getty Images
Clinicians work Wednesday in the former lobby of St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, which has been converted into a care space to treat suspected COVID-19 patients.

California has seen more than 23,600 coronavirus-related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

A map of California on the state's coronavirus dashboard is a sea of purple, a color that indicates high case numbers – all but three counties are at the "widespread" risk level.

The number of new daily cases has declined somewhat in the past few days.

"We are experiencing a modest decline in the rate of the growth," Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday, according to the AP. A decline over three days "doesn't necessarily make a trend ... but it's a modest indication of a possible sign of some good news."

Health workers and officials urged Californians to stay home and not gather for Christmas and New Year's celebrations.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said public health officials have drawn "a straight line" between the surge happening now and gatherings that happened at Thanksgiving.

"If you gather for the holidays, our hospitals will be overrun," Garcetti said on Monday, local outlets reported.

"If people don't stay home for Christmas this year, we're going to see something that's, it's hard for me to even imagine," Patrick Macmillan, a physician in Fresno County, told the AP. "I think it will break the health care system if people don't stay home."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.
News from Alabama Public Radio is a public service in association with the University of Alabama. We depend on your help to keep our programming on the air and online. Please consider supporting the news you rely on with a donation today. Every contribution, no matter the size, propels our vital coverage. Thank you.