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November 25, 2020 12:30pm

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Pre-Thanksgiving travelers wait to check-in for their flights
AP Photo/John Minchillo

As millions of Californians are traveling and gathering for Thanksgiving, the state is experiencing an unprecedented surge in infections and hospitalizations.

The state has seen its three highest tallies of new cases ever in the past five days. On Tuesday, the number of new infections was 15,329. That’s down slightly from what was the all time high of 15,442 on Saturday, but Wednesday’s number dwarfed them both at 18,350. That’s a 17% jump in cases in 24 hours and a rise so steep that the state’s line graph for daily cases is nearly vertical.

“Statewide, I don’t think we’ve ever seen hospital admissions increase like we did just over the past 24 hours,” said California Director of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly on Tuesday. “I hope but don’t expect that it’s the highest we’ll ever have.”

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Ghaly was right.

Just 24 hours later, the number of hospitalizations jumped another 5%, with 408 new patients recorded. As Deadline reported Tuesday, the daily number of hospitalizations due to the virus in California had increased 81% in the 14 days prior, to 6,641. Wednesday’s number brought the number of Covid-19 patients hospitalized in the state to 7,049, which is approaching the all-time high of 8,820 hospitalizations seen on July 21.

California COVID-19, By The Numbers:

🔹 Confirmed cases to date: 1,144,049
🔹 Note: Numbers may not represent true day-over-day change as reporting of test results can be delayed

More information at https://t.co/TLLUGx7imH. pic.twitter.com/FNwolraZjj

— CA Public Health (@CAPublicHealth) November 25, 2020

Ghaly reminded that today’s hospitalizations are the result of the number of infections seen two weeks prior. So Tuesday’s patients are based on a case number of 7,000 that we saw on November 10. Tuesday’s daily new case count was 15,329, more than double that from two weeks ago. “We’re concerned,” said Ghaly about what lies ahead.

According to Ghaly and others, Covid-19-related hospitalizations down the road have worked out to be 12% of the daily infections number. That means the number of new hospitalizations resulting from Tuesday’s new case count will be 1,839. The number of new hospitalizations resulting from Saturday’s new cases will be 1,853 in two weeks.

According to Gov. Gavin Newsom, 44,369 of the state’s 73,867 hospital beds were occupied on Monday. That seems like a good cushion, but even just a week of new admissions in the range of 1,800 is another 12,600 beds occupied. Two weeks at that rate is another 25,200 beds taken up. Adding that to the Monday’s total would have about 70,000 of the state’s 73,867 beds full. And those are just Covid-19 cases. That number does not account for the state’s usual daily demand due to other maladies.

Test positivity rates present more evidence of the state’s crisis. In the past week, California is delivering far more tests per day than it ever has, yet the positivity rate continues to grow. That means the actual number of infections in the population is growing.

The 14-day test positivity rate is now 5.9%. That’s up 2% over the past two weeks. California has 40 million residents. A 2% jump in infections in a population that size could represent up to 800,000 additional cases.

Despite pleas from state and local officials urging residents not to travel for Thanksgiving due to the coronavirus, millions of Southern Californians are still expected to do just that, with this afternoon anticipated to be the busiest time on Southland freeways.

The Automobile Club of Southern California estimated that 3.86 million Southern California residents will be traveling for the holiday weekend, a 13% drop from last year.

Health authorities have been recommending against travel this Thanksgiving due to surging COVID-19 cases. The state has issued a travel advisory, urging people who do travel to quarantine for 14 days upon their return.

Travelers coming through Los Angeles International and Van Nuys airports and Union Station beginning Wednesday will be required to sign a form acknowledging California’s recommended 14-day self quarantine in response to rising coronavirus rates.

The form is available at travel.lacity.org.

During a Monday briefing, Mayor Eric Garcetti urged people to not travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, not even to go across town because of how widespread Covid-19 cases have been recently.

We’re asking everyone to cancel non-essential travel. If you must travel, travelers arriving at LAX or Van Nuys Airport from another state or country will be required, starting tomorrow, to fill out an online form to acknowledge California’s recommended 14-day self-quarantine. https://t.co/FEMThw4OnX

— MayorOfLA (@MayorOfLA) November 24, 2020

City News Service contributed to this report.