California has refrigerators, body bags on standby as vaccine finally arrives

There may be light at the end of the tunnel, Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged Tuesday, but it's a very, very dark tunnel.

California has placed an order for 5,000 additional body bags and has 60 53-foot refrigerators on standby at hospitals around the state. This comes as daily coronavirus deaths are four times higher than they were one month ago.

"We're going through perhaps the most intense and urgent moment since the beginning of this pandemic," Newsom said.

To combat this third and biggest surge of COVID-19, California is establishing medical overflow facilities and upping intensive care staffing.

The first 33,150 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have arrived in California and more are on the way this week, Newsom said. If the Moderna vaccine is authorized, Newsom anticipates the state will receive 2.1 million doses of both vaccines by the end of the month.

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The first 33,150 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have arrived in California and more are on the way this week, Newsom said.



The first phase of vaccinations (called Phase 1A) includes health care workers and residents at long-term care settings, which is a population of about 3 million people. Phase 1B is a larger group of people, about 8 million Californians, and includes farm workers, grocery workers and teachers. Who among those 8 million is next in line is actively being discussed by the state, Newsom said.

It's been "a very optimistic 48 hours," the governor said, however the arrival of the vaccine is too little too late to help combat this winter surge of cases and hospitalizations.

The state saw 32,326 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours and intensive care units are starting to become overloaded.

As a region's ICU capacity drops below 15%, it is required to implement a stay-at-home order.

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The latest ICU capacity by region is:
  • Bay Area: 15.8%
  • Greater Sacramento: 14.9%
  • Northern California: 29.8%
  • San Joaquin Valley: 1.6%
  • Southern California: 1.7%
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