Once a model, California now struggles to tame COVID-19

Ambulances park in front of Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco on March 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Ben Margot,File)

Medical workers remove a stretcher from an ambulance Dec. 17, 2020, near medical tents outside the emergency room at UCI Medical Center, in Irvine, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, File)

LOS ANGELES — 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.