Ambulances waited hours for openings to offload coronavirus patients. Overflow patients were moved to hospital hallways and gift shops, even a cafeteria. Refrigerated trucks were on standby, ready to store the dead.
For months, California did many of the right things to avoid a catastrophic surge from the pandemic. But by the time Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Dec. 15 that 5,000 body bags were being distributed, it was clear that the nation’s most populous state had entered a new phase of the COVID-19 crisis.
Now infections have been racing out of control for weeks, and California remains at or near the top of the list of states with the most new cases per capita. It has routinely set new marks for infections and deaths, and began the new year reporting a record 585 deaths in a single day.
Experts say a variety of factors combined to wipe out the