Running out of toilet paper is one thing. Running out of intensive care unit (ICU) beds is something completely different.

With the Covid-19 coronavirus continuing to surge, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is now projecting that the state will run out of ICU beds by mid-December. That, obviously, is not a good thing and can’t be solved by simply buying more beds. As a result, on Thursday, the CDPH announced a “Regional Stay-At-Home Order”, which will remain in place for at least the next three weeks.

This Order doesn’t mean that all Californians have to stay at home just yet. Rather, it established thresholds that once crossed will trigger stay-at-home orders. In a series of tweets, Governor Gavin Newsom detailed what this means:

In other words, if the percentage of ICU beds that are available falls below 15% in a region in California, “all gatherings with members of other households” will be prohibited in that Region. There are exceptions such as gatherings for worship or political expression outdoors.

Also, the Order stipulates that everyone in the given Region will have to stay at home, unless they must leave “to conduct activities associated with the operation, maintenance, or usage of critical infrastructure, as required by law, or as specifically permitted in this order.”

Additionally, in such Regions, retailers would not be permitted to fill indoor locations more than 20% their capacity. This is 20% of the capacity for people and not something else like cheese. The Order would not explicitly prevent a retailer from filling half its store with melted Gouda. That may sound Gouda, but people would not be allowed to eat that Gouda right there. The Order would forbid retailers in a Region that has passed the ICU bed threshold from selling food, beverages, or alcohol for in-store consumption.

Furthermore, certain kinds of businesses in affected Regions would have to close temporarily. Newsom indicated in following tweets which businesses:

So if ICU bed availability were to drop below 15% in your Region, you may have to fire up the Flowbee instead of going to the barbershop.

That “if”, because a tweet by Newsom did say that none of Regions have passed this mark just yet:

Nonetheless, as the group Traffic has sung, who knows what tomorrow will bring. The CDPH will continue to track adult ICU bed capacity for each Region and indicate on their web site the Regions that dip below the 15% mark. Another in the series of tweet by Newsom showed a map of the five different Regions that comprise California:

If restrictions were enacted within a Region but the Region’s available ICU beds were to subsequently get back to 15% or above, the restrictions would then be lifted.

These new Orders shouldn’t be too surprising unless you have spent the last month holed up in a tiny cave with a tiny desk and no access to the news. California like much of the U.S. has been experiencing surges in the Covid-19 coronavirus. On Thursday, the state reported 18,591 new Covid-19 coronavirus cases, up 1.5% from the day prior, and 113 Covid-19-related deaths, a 0.6% increase from Wednesday. New hospital admissions due to Covid-19 have jumped from 777 on November 15 to 1,651 on December 2.

Of course, many people will not be happy with such orders. Few people would prefer more restrictions than fewer. Even if you had an army of Flowbees at home, having the option of going to barber shop would be nice, although using a Flowbee could help you in your multi-step plan to become like actor George Clooney:

Complaining about restrictions is easy to do. The trouble is something needs to be done about slowing the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. Stay-at-home orders and asking businesses to close are simply a time out. A time out is necessary when the Covid-19 coronavirus remains out of control. If you are not happy about such a time out, blame those who have failed to control the spread of the virus at a national level, who have failed to wear face masks, and who have failed to social distance adequately.

Available ICU bed capacity is a key measure. Once a hospital runs out of such beds, very ill patients can no longer get the treatment and attention that they normally would get. This would greatly increase their risks of dying. And an ICU bed is not just a mattress with a bed frame. When ICU beds are no longer available, that means the associated equipment and personnel are no longer available as well. If for example, a team of doctors, nurses, respiratory technicians, nutritionists, and other professionals are currently handling an ICU with ten beds. Bringing in two more beds with patients means that they have less time to spend caring for the patients in the other 10 beds. Health care professionals have their limits, and they don’t grow on trees. You can’t just “leave” health professionals with more responsibility than they can handle.

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