With little fanfare, California Governor Gavin Newsom reported that there were just 1,616 new positive coronavirus cases recorded in California on Wednesday. That’s the lowest count of new infections in nearly four months. The last time there were fewer new cases of COVID-19 was on May 18, when 1,365 were recorded.
There were, however, some caveats.
The public health director of California’s largest county, Los Angeles, said that Wednesday’s numbers were artificially low in L.A. due to a “holiday reporting lag and the fact that many testing sites were closed due to the extreme heat” over the weekend. That undoubtedly impacted numbers statewide.
Newsom also admitted that testing statewide was lower. “We continue to struggle with the number of tests,” he said, “because of the wildfires across the state.” Newsom said the number of tests reported on Wednesday was “over 110,000.” That’s about where the daily number has been for months, but not the increase in testing that the governor had recently promised.
Still, the dip is cause for some optimism.
The state had seen a 3.6 percent test positivity rate over the past 7 days, said the governor.
Also, there were a relatively-low number of 83 new deaths related to the virus, for a total of 13,841.
“Some progress” has been made in hospitalizations as well, said Newsom, as they are “beginning to flatten.”
The California Governor then revealed some details of his coming equity requirement for counties to reopen.
Newsom announced his new “simplified” coronavirus tiering system in late August. It was meant to clearly indicate to what extent a county can reopen.
Newsom said that the color-coded rankings would be predicated on two epidemiological measures: the number of cases per 100,000 residents and test positivity rates.
There will also be an “emergency brake” condition that can be employed if a county’s hospitalization numbers become worrisome, he said.
NEW: California is launching a Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
Your county will be assigned a color based on:
– Case rate
– Positivity rate
Your color determines how businesses can operate in your county.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) August 28, 2020
But later in his presentation, Newsom mentioned that the state is also considering “equity” among its many populations as a factor.
The equity component received little more than a mention in most coverage — if that — and Newsom did not stress the point.
On September 1, California Department of Health and Human Services Director Dr. Mark Ghaly said that the equity guidelines would be coming “soon.”
The California Department of Public Health website includes the following guidelines to advance from one tier to another:
In addition, the state will establish health equity measures on activities such as data collection, testing access, contact tracing, supportive isolation, and outreach that demonstrate a county’s ability to address the most impacted communities within a county. Additional measures addressing health outcomes such as case rates, hospitalizations and deaths, will also be developed and tracked for improvement.
While not entirely revealing the equity requirements for reopening Wednesday, Newsom offered more insight into his thinking on them.
“Those [counties] that are under-testing and are not testing in diverse communities,” said Newsom, “that’s a factor that’s considered as well.”
It’s about, “How the testing is being conducted and how robust.”
Using several of his favorite catchphrases, the governor ended by emphasizing that the “framework around equity is foundational.”
Asked if California residents should be concerned that his “liberal politics” would influence decisions on equity, Newsom repeated what has become a mantra for him. “I’m a pragmatist when it comes to addressing this pandemic,” he said. “We’re driven by data and science, not ideology.”
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