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Today’s Headlines: Hospitals’ desperate measures

Doctors treat a COVID-19 patient
Pulmonologist Dr. Laren Tan, right, with his team of nurses and respiratory therapists, looks in on a COVID-19 patient before she is intubated in the ICU at Loma Linda University Medical Center on Dec. 15.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

As the COVID-19 surge in California worsens, hospitals are looking at a variety of options.

TOP STORIES

Hospitals’ Desperate Measures

With intensive care units in Southern California and the Central Valley lurching perilously close to full capacity, officials are turning to increasingly desperate measures to prevent the state’s coronavirus surge from killing even more patients.

Hospitalizations are continuing to rise at unprecedented levels, and officials have limited options for boosting capacity. Among the tools: canceling scheduled surgeries; keeping critically ill patients in emergency rooms; sending ICU patients into step-down units earlier; training nurses from elsewhere in hospitals to help with intensive care; and increasing the numbers of patients an ICU nurse can care for.

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In Los Angeles County, emergency rooms are so crowded that some ambulances have been forced to wait as long as six hours to offload patients, said Cathy Chidester, director of the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency.

California is also seeking more medical staff from overseas, perhaps from as far away as Australia, while opening field hospitals to care for non-ICU patients in places such as Costa Mesa, Porterville, Sacramento and Imperial.

Officials around the state said that hospitals are sinking into a crisis state, but that a widespread overwhelming has not yet occurred. Meanwhile, California stands to receive at least 1 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the month; the vaccine will initially be steered toward frontline healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

— Federal regulators’ detailed analysis has found Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine 94.5% effective at preventing cases of COVID-19. So how does it compare with Pfizer’s? Here’s a closer look at how effective it is, and in whom.

— For all the promise a vaccine brings, the beginning of the end of the pandemic isn’t as close as you think, writes columnist Erika D. Smith. Few people understand this better than the Charles R. Drew University colleagues doing intensive outreach in South L.A. in the hopes of persuading the people who need a vaccine most to get it.

— Los Angeles has dispatched five mobile testing teams to predominantly Black and Latino communities in the East San Fernando Valley and South Los Angeles, where infections nearly doubled early this month.

For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter.

Facing Reality

Six weeks after the election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell congratulated President-elect Joe Biden during a Senate speech — and privately warned fellow GOP senators not to join President Trump’s extended assault on the electoral college results.

By warning Republican senators away from disputing the electoral college tally when Congress convenes in a joint session Jan. 6 to confirm the results, McConnell is hoping to fend off a messy fight that could damage his party ahead of Georgia’s Senate runoff election. The outcome of the races for both of the state’s seats will determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the Senate.

On Tuesday, Biden spoke at a drive-in rally in Atlanta for the Democratic candidates, and he used the occasion to celebrate his triumph over Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results — including in Georgia, where the president demanded three recounts

More Politics

— Biden is expected to pick Pete Buttigieg, his former rival and the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., for Transportation secretary and Jennifer Granholm, the former Michigan governor, for Energy. The selection could make Buttigieg, 38, the first Senate-confirmed openly gay Cabinet member.

— Now that Transportation secretary is off the table, where does that leave Eric Garcetti? The Los Angeles mayor hasn’t ruled out stepping down to join Biden’s team, but it’s unclear what job might be available to him.

— A tale of two Orange County Democrats in the House: Katie Porter sees her win as a victory for progressives. Harley Rouda says his loss shows the need for moderation.

The ‘Tamale Poll’

For many Mexican and Central American families, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without tamales and large gatherings that involve making and/or eating them.

But this year, tamaleros say they aren’t selling the same number as they did in years past, possibly meaning fewer family gatherings this year. And while some still hope for a Christmas miracle, others say they’re pessimistic given the skyrocketing number of COVID-19 cases.

“Our tradition is to gather with family. And you may have four to five families at a home and so you might order 20 tamales,” said one restaurant owner. “But that’s not happening. You’re going to celebrate with your own family and, rather than ordering 20 tamales, you might order five.”

FROM THE ARCHIVES

For more than half a century, Bob Hope entertained American troops overseas, often during the Christmas season, and over the years, Los Angeles Times photographers covered his departures and arrivals.

“His face was known to millions of Americans spanning three generations, perhaps especially those who served in the military during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars,” Times staff writer Al Martinez reported in Hope’s obituary in 2003. His shows won the actor praise for his patriotic efforts and criticism for his hawkish stance on Vietnam.

In this photo, taken on this date in 1957 and published in the next day’s paper, Hope gives actress Jayne Mansfield a lift, as a USO troupe prepares to leave from Burbank’s Lockheed Air Terminal — later renamed Bob Hope Airport. See more photos of Hope’s performances over the decades.

Dec. 16, 1957: Bob Hope gives actress Jayne Mansfield a lift as Johnny Grant, left, Hedda Hopper and Roscoe Ates look on.
Dec. 16, 1957: Bob Hope gives actress Jayne Mansfield a lift as a USO troupe prepares to leave for overseas performances for the military. Johnny Grant, left, Hedda Hopper and Roscoe Ates look on.
(Steve Fontanini / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— The Los Angeles police officers involved in the accidental killing of a Trader Joe’s manager when they opened fire on a man who was fleeing into the store after a car chase will not face criminal charges in the manager’s death, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said.

— Relatives of three residents and a nurse who died after a coronavirus outbreak at an upscale Westside care home for dementia patients are suing it, saying it put residents and staff at risk by admitting a New York man infected with the virus.

— Kelly Gonez, the daughter of an immigrant mother and the first in her family to attend college, will be the new school board president for the Los Angeles Unified School District, representing a generational shift in the nation’s second-largest school system and potentially one toward more influence for backers of charter schools.

— Six months after a construction worker fell from SoFi Stadium’s roof and died, Cal/OSHA has cited two companies for serious violations in connection with the incident.

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NATION-WORLD

— The Boko Haram extremist group has claimed responsibility for abducting hundreds of boys from a school in Nigeria in one of the largest such attacks in years, raising fears of a growing wave of violence.

— Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard was arrested on charges alleging he sexually abused women and girls after luring them into his orbit with opportunities in fashion and modeling over the last 25 years.

— A former deep-sea treasure hunter has spent five years in jail for refusing to disclose the whereabouts of 500 missing coins made from gold found in a historic shipwreck.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— The 2021 Sundance Film Festival will be four days shorter than most, feature far fewer films and be held mostly virtually, with some drive-in screenings around the country. But with its four main competition sections, splashy premieres and more, it still feels an awful lot like Sundance. Here’s a rundown of what’s screening.

— Following Netflix’s lead and at the request of comedian Dave Chappelle, HBO has agreed to remove “Chappelle’s Show” from its streaming services.

— With big villains and bigger hair, “Wonder Woman 1984" is a gloriously overstuffed sequel, film critic Justin Chang writes.

Holiday TV wants to ignore COVID-19. The alternate reality is an insult to viewers, writes Greg Braxton.

BUSINESS

— California regulators hit Uber this week with a $59-million fine and threatened to suspend its operating license. At issue: the company’s ongoing refusal to hand over detailed sexual assault data.

— Last year, in fighting California’s new labor law, Uber insisted its drivers work “outside the usual course of Uber’s business.” Now it’s calling them essential workers, arguing they should be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccines. Columnist Michael Hiltzik says its position is hypocritical and self-interested.

SPORTS

— For the first time since World War II forced the Rose Bowl eastward to Durham, N.C., in 1942, serious consideration is being given to the game not being played at its rightful home in Pasadena, due to L.A. County pandemic regulations.

LeBron James’ foundation plans to build a 60,000-square-foot community hub in Akron, Ohio, along with a 50-unit housing complex for I Promise School students and their families.

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OPINION

Biden’s attorney general shouldn’t be a Democratic version of William S. Barr, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— Among those slated to get vaccinated now, we’ll have to prioritize. Who should be last in line?

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Forget toilet paper and Netflix. For many people, landscaping goats have become the real pandemic necessity. Unlike the people who might wield weed-whackers, the lawn-munching livestock are lockdown-exempt — and that’s made them a hot commodity. (Wall Street Journal)

— How to watch the Jupiter and Saturn “great conjunction” on Dec. 21. (The Guardian)

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

In a battle with his next-door neighbor over a glass Dale Chihuly lawn sculpture, renowned bond investor Bill Gross said there are plenty of details he can’t quite recall. But one thing he’s sure of is that he didn’t harass his neighbor by blasting the “Gilligan’s Island” theme late at night. His neighbor in Laguna Beach feels quite different about it.

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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