California is experiencing what may be the toughest months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was the California Hospital Association Thursday’s assessment, which warned that the state’s hospitals, already on the verge of collapse, expect the number of COVID patients to triple by the end of the month, with the overall surge in hospitalizations lasting through the end of February. The state health department predicts more than 70,000 Californians will be hospitalized at the end of January, a significant increase from last winter’s peak of 54,000, reports CalMatters’ Kristen Hwang.
Carmela Coyle, CEO of the California Hospital Association: “We are at the cusp of the most challenging time for the California healthcare system. Our capabilities may soon be eclipsed.”
Schools are also struggling to stay open — and many may transition to remote learning in the next few weeks as staffing shortages soar, Troy Flint of the California Association of School Boards told Politico.
Nine Oakland schools canceled classes Thursday after teachers suffered a second illness in less than a week, and students are threatening their own illness next week unless the district strengthens safety protocols. Meanwhile, with almost a third of children aged 12 and over still not fully vaccinated, the district is likely to delay the implementation of its student vaccination mandate from January 31 to August.
Also closed: Schools in Alpine County after a public health official declared a public health emergency on Tuesday due to a spike in COVID cases and low vaccination rates. The Sutter County campus is closing today due to rising infection rates. This week, Palo Alto Unified managed to avert a closure by recruiting about 800 volunteer parents; On Thursday, an advocacy group called the San Francisco Parents Coalition announced that 58 parents and community members plan to apply as substitute teachers to help fill the shortage of staff in their district.
In addition to California’s coronavirus concerns, many residents are shelling out hundreds of dollars to pay for COVID tests — and not always getting reimbursed — despite state and federal laws requiring them to be free or covered by health insurance, reports Ana B. Ybarra from CalMatters. .
And starting today, the California Workplace Safety Agency, Cal/OSHA, is tightening COVID rules for businesses. Grace Guedier of CalMatters talks about changes to testing, quarantine and masking, including a new rule requiring workers to wear respirators, surgical masks, or face coverings made from fabric thick enough to block light.