Unclear if El Dorado County, region will be released from stay home order

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — There has been no indication that El Dorado County will be released from the state’s regional stay home order on Friday following the required 3-week stay even though the intensive care unit capacities are above the threshold.

El Dorado is part of the greater Sacramento region with 12 other counties that were ordered to stay home for three weeks by the governor’s office to try and stop the coronavirus from spreading like wildfire.

The order went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10 and three weeks is over late Thursday night or Friday, New Year’s Day.

County officials had no answers on Tuesday and referred all questions to the California Department of Health.

Alpine County, who is part of the region, had a lodging business cancel Saturday reservations expecting to stay under the order.

The threshold for ICU capacity is 15%, when it drops below the stay home order is triggered. The region as of Tuesday had a 19.1% capacity which has improved in the last few days. The state is reassessing regions on a daily basis and to come off the order, they must have ICU capacity and also be on a good trend with new cases projected out four weeks.

According to the California Department of Public Health on Tuesday, nine out of the 26 COVID-19 patients admitted between Barton Memorial Hospital and Marshal Medical Center are in the intensive care unit. There are three staffed ICU beds available in the county.

The county has had 13 residents succumb to the virus since Dec. 18, including five over this past weekend and three more were announced Tuesday. Overall the county has lost 21 residents to the virus, all since mid-July when the first death was reported. Six of the deaths are from the Lake Tahoe region.

Officials say it is too soon to see the effects from the Christmas holiday, that it will become evident over the next couple weeks.

State health secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly urged people not to gather for New Year’s celebrations which would further complicate the situation.

“Things that were, a month ago or two months ago, a low-risk activity today are really high risks because of the level of COVID that’s circulating in our communities,” Ghaly said.

When officials make the 4-week projections they take into account four regional categories that include ICU capacity, 7-day average case rate, 7-day transmission rate and rate of ICU admission, though how the categories are weighted is unknown.

California is currently experiencing a surge from Thanksgiving. That surge has produced a record breaking amount of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths throughout the state. With the next expected surge from the holidays, state forecasting models show hospitalizations more than doubling in the next month from about 20,000 to more than 50,000.

“As we move into this new phase, where we brace, where we prepare ourselves for what is inevitable now … based on the travel we have just seen in the last week and the expectation of more of the same through the rest of the holiday season of a surge on top of a surge, arguably, on top of, again, another surge,” Newsom said.

In Southern California and San Joaquin Valley, ICU capacity is at 0%.

Newsom said it was “self-evident” his latest stay-home order would be extended in places where hospital ICUs have less than 15% capacity in Monday’s press conference. These areas also might have to resort to “crisis care” which includes rationing of treatment.

Dr. Ghaly said in a press conference on Tuesday that order will continue if demand continues to exceed capacity.

The stay at home order is aimed at relieving some of the pressure facing hospitals.