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California's Healthcare System is a Great Risk

Two weeks ago I gave a COVID talk during which I said that if any place had to worry about the coming months it was California. There's more evidence of this now than there was then.

COVID has followed very regular seasonal patterns. There are peaks in the spring, summer, and fall/winter. Most areas of the country are impacted at the same time--but to varying degrees. News coverage typically focuses our attention on the hardest hit areas, which obscures this truth, but the attached chart makes it clear.

California has only had one strong wave so far, which started last year around this time. Last week the state saw an upturn in hospitalizations and cases. These uptrends are not easily reversed.

What makes this particularly dangerous is that a greater number of hospitals in California are signaling staffing shortages than were doing so this time last year. This is true across the country, but it is particularly acute in California.

Additionally, last year we had a hiatus from influenza-like-illness. The data indicate we're not going to have a similar respite this year. Add in the fact that non-COVID hospitalizations and deaths are currently well above normal rates, and the US' healthcare system could be more overwhelmed than last year even if COVID is not as severe.

There are too many variables with unknown values to make a prediction, but I do believe that, among the most populous states, Californians have the most to worry about.


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