The coronavirus pandemic crisis in the US state of California worsened this week as the number of available beds in intensive care units (ICU) steadily declined.

There were almost no vacant ICU beds for the nineteenth consecutive day Tuesday when state officials issued a new health order.

The order requires some counties in the northern Bay Area, which include San Francisco and Oakland, to accept transfer patients from hospitals that are overwhelmed with new COVID-19 cases.

“When hospitals are overwhelmed and overflowing, they are no longer able to provide the traditional standards of care we expect,” Dr. Tomás Aragon, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement.

“This order helps ensure that patients continue to receive appropriate medical services by better distributing available resources across the state to prevent overwhelming specific hospitals, counties and regions,” he added.

California hospitals currently hold more than 22,000 coronavirus patients, which include 4,700 ICU patients, according to the state’s Department of Public Health.

With hospitals barely holding, the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency issued controversial directives last week that ambulances should stop transporting patients to hospitals if they have no chance of surviving.

It issued another one Monday directing ambulances to administer less oxygen, in the face of low supplies.

Only 1% of Californians vaccinated

Despite two different vaccines being approved and the distributing process started in the US, only 1% of California’s 40 million residents have been vaccinated, according to Governor Gavin Newsom.

The state has received nearly 1.3 million doses of the vaccine but only 454,000 doses have been administered, according to health officials.

Newsom announced Tuesday a $4.5 billion relief package for California, which includes more than $1 billion in immediate relief for small businesses including grants and fee waivers.

The package includes tax credits for new hires, a major job package including apprenticeships, in addition to housing development and more green jobs.

The death toll in California surpassed 26,500 Monday with confirmed cases nearing 2.4 million.

The number of cases in the US was more than 21.1 million Wednesday with fatalities at 359,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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