The news of the first U.S. case of a new and more contagious strain of COVID-19 from the U.K. is a heavy blow to health care systems across the country that are already overwhelmed. Los Angeles County in California is currently under strict stay-at-home orders with daily deaths up nearly 600%, as well as new COVID-19 cases up 965% since November.
“Patients are being cared for and treated in the ambulances as if it’s part of the emergency room,” said Dr. Christina Ghaly, the director of Los Angeles County Health Services. “As bad as it is, the worst is almost certainly yet to come.”
With its gift shop and chapel now filled with hospital beds, one LA County hospital, Martin Luther King Junior Medical Center, is in full-scale crisis mode.
“We have 224 patients in here, but 131 beds,” said Dr. Elaine Batchlor.
Another Southern California hospital, Huntington Memorial, is also preparing an emergency plan for rationing care, insisting it will not put the burden on frontline workers. Instead, a committee that includes “doctors, a bioethicist and a spiritual care provider” will decide who gets potentially life-saving treatment.
L.A. County is now requiring anyone visiting to quarantine for at least 10 days and is also urging Hollywood studios to hit pause on productions.
Nationwide, back-to-back holiday gatherings are leading to record-breaking surges in coronavirus cases, with New Year’s Eve just two days away.
Texas just set a record for COVID-19 hospitalizations amid plans to carry on with some New Year’s Eve celebrations.
In a Holyoke, Massachusetts, soldiers’ home where 77 residents died of COVID-19, there was joy amid the heartbreak after the first vaccines were administered.
© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.