California activates state’s mass fatality program as COVID-19 deaths average more than 160 a day

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — California is averaging more than 160 COVID-19 deaths per day over the last week, prompting the state to activate its Coroners’ Mutual Aid and Mass Fatality Management Planning Program.

“This is a deadly disease, a deadly pandemic, and we’re in the middle of it,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday. “We just had to purchase 5,000 body bags they just purchased for the state and we distributed them to Los Angeles, San Diego and Inyo counties. That should be sobering.”

California is now averaging more than 32,500 new COVID-19 cases per day, with about 12% of those expected to be hospitalized in a matter of weeks.

As regional available intensive care unit capacities dwindle, state leaders say putting together surge staffing is the priority.

California is distributing an extra 500 medical professionals throughout 20 counties, 50 of them from the California National Guard.

The state is also working to vaccinate frontline essential workers in every county.

Twenty-nine jurisdictions in California are slated to receive doses of Pfizer’s vaccine between Tuesday and Wednesday.

The state hopes to have more than 2 million people vaccinated within the next month or so.

“But we have work to do in the tunnel, although there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” Newsom said.

This week, the state’s Vaccine Advisory Committee will begin public discussions on who will receive the vaccine in the next phase — Phase 1B. Newsom said grocery workers, teachers and farmworkers are included in those discussions.

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