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The vast region of Southern California was placed under new blockade orders as the state scrambles to stem the rapid escalation of coronavirus cases that threaten to overwhelm hospitals.

The California Department of Public Health announced Saturday that a shortage of intensive care beds in the 11-county Southern California region had prompted the new measures, which take effect Sunday night.

A Gucci employee talks to a man waiting in line for socially estranged shoppers waiting to enter the luxury designer boutique on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. (AP)

The region includes the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego and is home to some 24 million people, nearly half the state’s population.

Earlier on Saturday, the order also went into effect for the San Joaquin Valley in central California.

The new state stay-at-home order bans all restaurants on the premises and closes nail and nail salons, movie theaters and many other businesses, as well as museums and playgrounds. It remains in effect for at least three weeks.

It also means that people cannot meet anyone outside their home and must always wear masks when going outside.

Coronavirus infections continue to spread at record levels in the United States, reaching a new daily high of almost 228,000 cases on Friday.
People rub their cheeks at a COVID-19 testing site in the North Hollywood section of Los Angeles. (AP)

The 227,885 cases dwarf the previous high of more than 217,000 on Thursday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The seven-day moving average of deaths attributable to COVID-19 in the US has passed 2,000 for the first time since spring. It reached 2011 on Friday.

Two weeks ago, the seven-day average was 1,448. 2,607 deaths were reported in the United States on Friday.

Globally, Johns Hopkins reports that more than 1.5 million people have died from the coronavirus pandemic, including more than 279,000 in the United States.

Meanwhile, in Missouri, St. Louis children’s hospitals have begun treating adult patients as area hospitals struggle to keep up with the increase in coronavirus cases.

Dr. Marya Strand, medical director of SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she is treating adults who do not have COVID-19 to take some pressure off other hospitals.

St Louis Children’s Hospital has also opened its doors to adults.

About 1,054 people were hospitalized in the St Louis area Wednesday for COVID-19, including 221 patients in intensive care units.

St Louis area hospitals have approximately 82% capacity for inpatient beds and 81% capacity for ICU beds.

Staff at SSM Health and BJC Healthcare Children’s Hospitals have also started volunteering to work at other overwhelmed hospitals.

Medical Assistant Nicole Thomas conducts a COVID-19 test in the parking lot of the Primary Health Medical Group clinic in Boise, Idaho, on Tuesday, November 24, 2020. The urgent care clinic was converted into a facility for coronavirus patients as infections and deaths rise in Idaho and across the country. (AP)

Additionally, Arizona health officials used a blunt tone on Saturday, as the state reported 6,799 coronavirus cases, the second-highest daily increase since the start of the pandemic.

The Department of Health Services says on Twitter that people should wear masks “with anyone who is not a member of their household, including those they know and trust.”

Shoppers walk through a storm through New York’s Times Square. (AP)

Similarly, the department’s director, Dr. Cara Christ, says that people “should take precautions as if we could be infected. And we should act as if anyone around us could be infected.”

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