As more people venture out and expand their social circles, the coronavirus pandemic is sending some alarming signals to California about the effects of the reopening.
“Right now it seems like things are going in the wrong direction,” said John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert and professor emeritus at UC Berkeley.
Here are five signs of why, experts say.
1. The increase in cases counts
This is the big one. On Monday and Tuesday, the number of new confirmed coronavirus cases in California skyrocketed to record levels of more than 6,000 infections per day, well north of the 2-3,000 total daily cases that were most common in early June. On Wednesday, the state added 4,648 new cases.
While counties like Los Angeles and San Bernardino in southern California have seen more dramatic spikes, case numbers continue to rise in the Bay Area, too. This week, Alameda County and Santa Clara County saw daily records. Alameda reported 202 new cases on Monday, more than any other day of the pandemic so far, and Santa Clara reported a record 121 new cases on Tuesday.
California is not alone. Arizona, Mississippi, Nevada and Texas set single-day case records on Tuesday and the US USA They generally had their highest day count since mid-April with more than 36,000 cases reported. On Wednesday, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, who were affected by the virus but have stabilized in recent weeks, said they would require travelers from states with high community outreach, such as Florida and Texas, to get quarantined for two weeks. At the arrived.
2. Record hospitalization numbers
In the first months of the pandemic, hospitals across the Golden State braced themselves for a surge in coronavirus patients that never really happened. But this week, there are more people confirmed to have the coronavirus in hospital than at any other time since the pandemic began. As of Tuesday, there were 4,095 COVID-positive patients in the California hospital, an alarming 32% of 3,092 just 10 days earlier.
Most hospitalizations are occurring in Southern California in places like Riverside and Orange counties, but the number of confirmed positive patients in Bay Area hospitals has steadily increased from 222 on June 18 to 304 on 23 June, an increase of 37%.
And here is something else that local hospitals are seeing more: younger patients presenting to the emergency room with the virus, who are not sick enough to be admitted, said Russell Rodriguez, medical director of the emergency department at John Muir Health, based in Walnut Creek. . “They are discharged home to isolate themselves, control their symptoms, and return to the hospital if there are significant changes.”
3. Increasing death projections
The University of Washington Institute for Health Measurement and Assessment is projecting more than 15,155 coronavirus deaths by Oct. 1. That’s more than 150 percent of the 5,640 deaths in California as of Tuesday,
“People are losing their lives to COVID-19 and we are seeing an increase in the total number of cases, people getting younger,” Governor Gavin Newsom said during a press conference on Wednesday.
4. Problematic testing trends
In mid-June, state public health officials warned that an increasing number of coronavirus cases did not necessarily mean that the virus was spreading violently as counties reopened. Instead, they suggested, the increase likely had to do with increasing evidence. The tests were difficult to conduct at the start of the pandemic, but now the state conducts more than 80,000 every day and finds cases that would not have been detected in the past.
But that is not the whole story.
Authorities had pointed out the fact that less than 5% of all tests in the state were testing positive as a good sign. That is no longer true. As of Wednesday, across the state just over 5% of tests tested positive for the first time since mid-May.
And some places have alarmingly high positivity rates. In the past few days, more than 9% of tests in Los Angeles County are testing positive. San Bernardino is approximately 11%, and Imperial County is above 20%.
So far, George Rutherford, an infectious disease expert at UCSF, isn’t overly concerned about the state as a whole crossing the 5 percent positivity threshold.
“If you are doing what you should be doing, you should find many cases,” he said.
In the last 14 days, CA has performed 1,052,101 tests with a # COVID19 positivity rate of 5.1%.
This is an increase that we are following very closely.
Californians must remain vigilant and act responsibly.
Wear a face covering. Wash your hands. Practice physical distancing.
– Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) June 24, 2020
5. Outbreaks in congregational living settings
Initially, nursing homes, where vulnerable older people live together, and prisons were particularly susceptible to outbreaks. That is still true. In recent days, the San Quentin State Prison in Marin County has seen an explosion of more than 450 cases. And at least 12,400 residents of qualified nursing homes in California have tested positive and more than 2,320 have died since the crisis began.
Now, public health officials have a new concern looming this fall: students returning to college campuses.
“They come from everywhere,” said Rutherford. “That is a great concern.”
In general, health experts are concerned that people’s willingness to stay home and follow the rules is declining in some places and generating direct rejection in others, especially when it comes to wearing masks. And especially in harsh southern California.
“Every weekend Manhattan Beach is so crowded,” said Oscar Juárez, deputy manager of Manhattan Pizzeria. “And you’d be surprised to know how many people don’t have masks on the beach.”
While Swartzberg, Rutherford, and other health experts closely monitor these warning signs, California is better positioned to respond now than when the pandemic began.
“We have much finer tools at our disposal now that we have a better understanding of where transmission occurs,” said Rutherford.
In other words, an outbreak in the San Quentin prison requires attention, but it does not mean that Marin County should close its outdoor restaurants and other businesses.
Still, they are urging people to be cautious.
“None of us knows what’s going to happen,” said Swartzberg. “We are trying to read the tea leaves right now.”