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California orders 5,000 body bags amid COVID-19 surge

California orders 5,000 body bags amid COVID-19 surge
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday the state is experiencing its most intense surge of the coronavirus to date. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 16 (UPI) -- As California beings its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he has ordered an additional 5,000 body bags amid a surge in coronavirus deaths.

The Democratic governor said Tuesday during a press conference there is "light at the end of the tunnel" as frontline healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities are being inoculated against the virus, but cautioned that the end is still far away as California experiences its "most intense surge" in infections amid the pandemic.

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"We're still in the tunnel and we're going through perhaps the most intense and urgent moment since the beginning of the pandemic," he said.

On Monday, the state registered more than 32,300 cases and a seven-day average positivity rate above 10%, which has not been seen since the first few weeks of the pandemic, he said.

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The additional body bags have been distributed to Los Angeles, San Diego and Inyo Counties while 60 53-foot refrigerator storage units are on standby, he said, adding that those numbers "should be sobering."

"I don't want to scare folks but this is a deadly disease and we need to be mindful of where we are in this current journey together to the vaccine," he said. "We are not at the finish line yet."

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The state has lost an average of 163 people per day over the past week, compared to 41 daily deaths a month ago, he said.

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"We have to mindful of how deadly this disease, this pandemic is," he said. "We are not at the finish line yet."

The news came a day after Gavin announced his "Vaccinate All 58" inoculation plan that will see initial doses going to California's essential healthcare workers and those most vulnerable in long-term care facilities.

More than 33,000 doses arrived Monday at four locations with 24 additional locations expecting to have received doses on Tuesday, he said, adding California is anticipating nearly 400,000 more doses from Pfizer this week and nearly 700,000 from Moderna if approved by the end of the month.

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California, with more than 1.6 million cases and 21,000 deaths, is the sickest state in the country with the highest COVID-19 caseload in the world.

According to a live tracker of the virus by Johns Hopkins University, the United States has reported more than 16.7 million infections and nearly 304,000 deaths.

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