Why The California Shutdown Is Divided By Regions Not Counties

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Governor Gavin Newsom had dire words as he rolled out his new stay-at-home order Thursday.

"Lives will be lost unless we do more than we've ever done,” said Newsom from his home where he is in quarantine.

The governor enforced a stay at home order back in March, but this time, you may have noticed the metrics controlling whether San Diego falls into a shutdown or gets out are now based on a regional calculation, not a county one.

The governor is carving up the state into five regions. And San Diego falls into what looks like the largest in size- the Southern California region. It includes LA, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties, just to name a few.

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Here's a look at the different state regions Gov. Gavin Newsom outlined in a new stay-at-home order to curb a surging cases in COVID-19.

This means we're stuck in a shutdown unless every county in our region keeps their remaining ICU bed capacity from falling under 15%.

That could seem a bit unfair. Right now, San Diego's capacity is at 23%, well above that 15% threshold. But already, surrounding counties with more crowded hospitals are bringing down the number.

"It is in fact well thought out,” said Dr. Lewis Kaplan, president of the National Society of Critical Care Medicine.

Kaplan said the virus doesn’t care about county lines, and hospitals don’t really work that way either.

"It makes sense in terms of how patients move," Kaplan said.

Hospitals move patients regionally based on trauma center and burn center hubs, according to Kaplan.

"When you think about COVID care, realize this virus has an impact on the entire body, from your nose to your toes," he said.

In other words, treatment can get complicated, and those complications mean moving patients across county lines.

"None of us think for a second that it's going to be three weeks," said Robert Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable. "When we first got the order we, frankly, were very concerned."

Lapsley said the shutdown should allow all businesses to stay open at reduced capacity, not just retailers.

"We've learned so many lessons since last March,” Lapsley said. “So why are we not applying those businesses?"

Unlike Kaplan, Lapsley takes issue with the regional approach, and suspects more may be at play.

"Your region's too big,” said Lapsley. "The reason that your region is so big, is because the governor doesn't want people traveling from one county to another."

But Kaplan argues counting hospital capacity by hospital regions is just smart.             

"There is strength in that,” said Kaplan. “And there is flexibility and so I think this is being well done."

Without a shutdown, the governor said California is currently on track to hit 112% ICU capacity by mid-December.

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