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Multiple counties in California will move back into more restrictive Covid-19 rules amid a surge in hospitalization, as health officials warning the latest numbers paint a troubling picture as the state heads into winter.
The number of patients hospitalized with coronavirus in California has risen by 32% over the past two weeks, and intensive-care admissions have spiked by 30%, Dr Mark Ghaly, the state’s health and human services secretary, told reporters on Monday.
As a result, Ghaly announced that three counties that are home to about 5.5 million people – San Diego, Sacramento and Stanislaus – must reverse their reopening plans and go back to the most restrictive category of regulations under which indoor dining in restaurants is not allowed and gyms and religious institutions are also not permitted to hold indoor activities.
More counties will likely be required to roll back reopening in coming weeks, he said.
“We anticipate if things stay the way they are … over half of California counties will have moved into a more restrictive tier” by next week, Ghaly said.
California’s coronavirus cases are at their highest levels in months, a disquieting reality that the state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, addressed on Monday, calling it “obviously sobering”.
Officials in the San Francisco Bay area are urging people who travel outside the region to quarantine for two weeks upon return.
Los Angeles county is home to 10 million people, roughly one-quarter of California’s population, and was seeing 750 cases per day in September. Last week, just four days saw case counts above 2,000.
California hasn’t seen the more dramatic surges other states are experiencing, but new figures are troubling. The number of confirmed cases, the infection rate, hospitalizations and intensive care patients all have reached their highest level in months, Newsom warned.
The positivity rate, the number of people who test positive in the state, has climbed from 2.5% to 3.7%. Meanwhile, California is nearing two grim milestones: 1 million cases and 18,000 deaths.
The state updates every Tuesday its 58 counties’ progress on a four-tier, color-coded system for reopening. The lower the cases and positivity rate, the fewer restrictions there are for businesses and certain activities in that county.
During the two months that the system has been implemented, most counties moved into less restrictive tiers. But this week’s update will see counties go the other way.
“This surge in Covid-19 cases is not what we want to see going into the fall and winter holiday season,” said Dr Sara Cody, a Santa Clara county health officer. Her county reported 358 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, the second-highest during the pandemic.
Cody said the increase is largely among people between the ages of 18 and 34, and could be because people are letting their guards down on safety measures such as wearing masks and staying socially distant.
Newsom said the state’s increase may be linked to Halloween, but more broadly appears tied to larger social gatherings.
County health officials where cases are rising uniformly cite “private household gatherings as a major source of spread”, Ghaly said. “These masks, even with loved ones that we haven’t seen for a while, are really important, and that sense that we’re safe because we know someone is not the case with Covid.”
With the upcoming holidays and simultaneous flu season, Newsom injected a new worry: that people will drop their guard because of positive news about vaccines, most recently Pfizer’s announcement that its version may be 90% effective, based on early and incomplete test results.
“This vaccine is not going to be readily available for mass distribution … likely well into the next year,” he said on Monday. “I am concerned, truthfully, that we may get overexuberant … and people may go back to their original form. That would be a terrible mistake.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: California counties return to restrictive Covid rules amid hospitalization surge | California