California passed the grim milestone of 200,461 coronavirus cases on Friday morning amid more worrying reports about the rising number of new infections. The state saw a 2.5 percent rise in new cases over the previous day’s total.
Amid those concerns, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Friday that, after weeks of engagement with the state’s hardest-hit county, he was asking officials in Imperial County, near San Diego, to increase COVID-preventative restrictions.
Newsom said he would leave it to county officials to determine the appropriate measures but, if they did not find the right measures, “I am committed to intervening.”
“They never moved as far forward as other parts of the state,” he said, “but it’s time to pull back further.”
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The area’s test positivity rate over 14 days is approaching 23 percent. As a result, they “need to decompress their hospital system,” said Newsom.
Imperial County’s case rate per 100,000 over the past 14 days is more than 630. That’s well above the 100 cases per 100,000 threshold required by the state before reopening can be considered.
There are 13 other counties that the state has on a “watch list,” according to the governor. Those counties are Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Riverside, Contra Costa, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Stanislaus and Tulare.
Newsom indicated that he did not presently intend to “toggle back” any other areas of the state, but praised Disney’s decision not to reopen Disneyland and San Francisco’s recent retrenchment. “I imagine you’ll see others doing the same,” said Newsom.
He did reserve the right to consider a “pull back” in the future, however.
Statewide, there were 4,890 new cases reported on Friday. That marks the region’s fourth-highest daily case number since the start of the pandemic.
Newsom had warned on Thursday that “We’ve seen 56,000 new cases just in the past 14 days. “That’s over a quarter of the [then] total 195,000 cases identified so far. Some of that can be attributed to increased testing,” said Newsom. But not all of it.
The positivity rate of tests have also been rising. As of Thursday, the positivity rate was up 5.1 percent over the past 14 days. On Thursday, said the governor, that rate clocked in at 5.6 percent. On Friday, the rate rose to 5.7 percent. Infections among those between 18 and 40 are rising more rapidly. The Los Angeles County Health Department indicated on Friday and new cases among that cohort had increased 44 percent in the past 16 days.
On Wednesday Newsom revealed a 29 percent increase in total hospitalizations over the past 14 days. On Thursday that number rose to 32 percent. On Friday, the day-over-day rise in hospitalizations was 3.3 percent, according to Newsom.
Total hospital space being used remains at 8 percent as a result of new beds being brought online, according to Newsom.
ICU numbers are increasing over the past 14 days. “Roughly 34 percent of the available ICU beds in our hospital system are being used,” said the governor. That’s up from 31 percent just 24 hours before. On Friday, the governor said the number of COVID-19 patients in ICU rose 4.4 percent.
Referencing the ICU numbers, Newsom said they are key to the decision about whether to retighten restrictions or continue reopening. “When our system cannot absorb, when there’s a capacity or limitation,” said the governor, “that’s when we put out alarm bells. When we see resource depletion, resource restraints, that’s when we get concerned.”
Daily COVID-related fatalities have remained fairly stable. Thursday, however, saw 101 fatalities, the most reported since June 10. But deaths are usually a lagging indicator in outbreaks, only spiking after infections and hospitalizations.
“You will see with the death rates that they’re lagging,” said Newsom on Friday. The governor indicated the state may see a rise there soon.
After a week of record numbers and a curious plunge in cases yesterday, Johns Hopkins University indicated on Thursday that Los Angeles now has the highest number of coronavirus cases of any county in the nation.
Johns Hopkins reported 89,633 total cases in L.A. County as of Wednesday. That institution’s numbers frequently outpace other sources, but the Centers for Disease Control came in just slightly lower at 89,490 total infections. That would still place the county at the top of John Hopkins’s ignominious list.
On Monday, the county experienced an all-time high of more than 2,500 new cases. Tuesday was another near record, with 2,364 new cases.
The numbers dipped precipitously in the county on Wednesday, with 1,260 new cases reported. But on Thursday, the number of daily new cases jumped back up to 2,012.
So what gives? Often when case numbers go up, experts point to a parallel increase in testing as the culprit. On Thursday, the county reported a daily testing capacity of 15,000, which is roughly .1 percent of its total population. And the peaks in testing do not correspond with the peaks in new cases.
On Friday, Newsom reported 77,000 tests, down from over 100,000. The state has averaged 88,000 recently.
Many point the the recent Black Lives Matter protests, which brought hundreds of thousands of people into the streets together. When asked specifically about the protests, the director of the L.A. county health department, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, has repeatedly said she feels the spike correlates more closely with the general reopening and people getting out and going back to work.
It may be impossible to tease the two apart. Mass protests in Los Angles began on May 27, almost exactly one month ago. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti lifted restrictions on “all retail spaces” in May 26. The L.A. County health department indicates a quarantine of 14 days to ensure one has not been infected. Newsom on Thursday warned against family gatherings, play dates and barbecues as the weather warmed up, saying those events in recent weeks have also contributed.
Asked about the protests in Friday’s news conference, a state health official responded, “We do know from speaking with our counties that it is a contributor. We will not be able to distinguish exactly where someone was when they were exposed. But..staying out of those larger crowds is what keeps us safe.”
Also on Friday, U.S. health officials reported a single-day national record of 39,327 new infections on Thursday. Florida alone saw 9,000 new cases.
As a result, reopening efforts are either paused or being rolled back in 11 states.
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