The lull before the surge on top of the surge

By Shawn Hubler

“A surge on top of a surge” of the coronavirus is incoming, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California warned Monday in his first briefing of what’s already shaping up to be an exhausting year.

With the holidays over, the governor said, more than 2.4 million Californians have been infected, some 27,000 are dead, hospitals are overwhelmed and only about a third of the state’s 1.3 million vaccine doses have made it into the arms of patients.

That lag, he said, is a function of California’s size and complex logistics. More than 450,000 people have gotten their first dose, but “that is not good enough.”

In Los Angeles County, people suffering from COVID-19 have been waiting in emergency lanes for hours while exhausted staff members try to find bed space; health authorities have directed ambulance crews to stop transporting patients whose survival is unlikely and start conserving their oxygen.

In San Bernardino County, a clinical director at a large hospital told reporters that cots have been placed in conference rooms, with plans to put overflow patients in the cafeteria and lobby. In San Diego County, Newsom said, the new, highly transmissible variant of the virus has now been pinpointed in at least four cases, for a total of at least a half-dozen statewide.

What’s being done

If California’s terrifying pandemic numbers seem to have leveled off, Newsom said, it is only because more Californians are getting the message — and because the inevitable deaths and infections generated by those who couldn’t or wouldn’t stay home or wear masks will take a few days.

Newsom, who will open state budget negotiations this week, said he planned to ask the Legislature for $300 million to help pay for vaccine distribution and outreach. He also has deployed members of the California National Guard and authorized dentists and pharmacy technicians to help give shots. Additional nursing reinforcements have been dispatched to help care for the flood of patients and to help deliver and refill oxygen tanks.

Talk of recall

The governor delivered his report in a voice so gravelly after a year of daily pandemic reports that his livestream hecklers commented on it between their usual demands that he be drummed out of office.

“Let my salon open!” they digitally jeered. “Lies lies lies lies lies!” “Let’s talk about your recall!”

At least one Republican-led effort to oust the governor has, in fact, been gaining momentum.

A mysterious Orange County organization with a scant paper trail and a biblical name recently donated $500,000, which is already being used to solicit support, campaign records indicate.

On Monday, Ann Ravel, a former chair of the Federal Election Commission who lives in Northern California and who is a Democrat, like Newsom, charged that the group, Prov 3:9, LLC, appears to be a shell company set up to hide the identity of dark money donors, and filed a complaint urging the state attorney general and elections officials to get to the bottom of it. Organizers of the recall drive said her concern was just an attempt to discredit their campaign.

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