California Peak COVID-19: Expert explains why cases are on the rise, if you have to wear a mask outdoors, if AC needs to be turned off again

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) – This week’s coronavirus news cycle has been dominated by headlines about an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in California.

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While the numbers are not as bad as in other states (we’re looking at you, Arizona), they are nonetheless alarming: Hospitalizations have increased 32% in the past 14 days and ICU hospitalizations have increased 19%.

To help make sense of everything, we asked Dr. Alok Patel, contributor to ABC7 News, five questions about the latest trends in COVID-19.

Health officials across the state have attributed the recent increase to a number of factors: more evidence, reopening of businesses, major protests, an increase in family / social gatherings around the holidays, to name a few. In your opinion, are any of these situations especially dangerous for spreading COVID-19?

Any situation in which people interact closely increases the chances of transmission from person to person, plain and simple. If people don’t wear masks, are indoors, and / or spend a lot of time together, the risk only increases. The recent increases could be due in part to the reopening of businesses, protests, social gatherings, and the added factor that people are fatigued by quarantine – many people are not as careful as they should be. As of now, there is no clear data showing that the protests directly cause the increase in cases, but it is possible and we may have a clearer idea soon.

However, it is important to note that although contact trackers have tracked positive cases to social gatherings, part of the recent increase in the Bay Area is also attributed to the outbreak in San Quentin prison, cases in nursing homes and the spread of the workplace. .

VIDEO: Dr. Alok Patel answers questions about the increase in COVID-19 cases

The California DPH has released a list of 15 counties on its coronavirus watch list for various reasons, including two in the Bay Area. What trends should we pay attention to here to get an idea of ​​whether things are getting better or worse in the place where we live?

People should not only pay attention to the total number of coronavirus cases in their counties, but should also pay attention to the positivity rates of the tests, in addition to the number of people hospitalized. According to the World Health Organization, the positivity rate should be kept below 5%, and some officials cite 7 or 8%. The percentage of tests, which are positive, is a more accurate way for people to see if the virus is spreading, in real time.

(Note: The positivity rate across the state of California has averaged 5.6% in the past seven days, Governor Gavin Newsom said Thursday.)

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Which sector / s of the economy / companies do you think were allowed to reopen too quickly?

In some counties, I feel that indoor businesses, including restaurants, gyms, and lounges, opened too early. I am concerned that counties continue to reopen plans even as they show an increase in coronavirus cases in the past two weeks. I think everyone unanimously agrees that the economic impact of this pandemic is devastating. We all want companies to reopen. However, any business that opens too quickly, ignoring county health guidelines, without forcing physical distance or wearing masks, puts themselves and their communities at risk.

What do you think is the biggest misunderstanding right now about the state of coronavirus transmission in California?

The biggest misunderstanding, from what I’ve observed, is that the pandemic has ended or is slowing down. Even at the national level, people hear public health officials warn of a resurgence of cases along with other national voices who want to reopen the economy quickly and claim cases are increases only because of increased evidence. Unfortunately, based on test data, including the positivity rate and spikes across the country, it is clear that we are still in the first wave of this pandemic. With the restrictions lifted a false hope may come, but people still need to wear masks and physical distance whenever possible.

Another reason that some Californians may feel optimistic is that the state was closed early and the people, for the most part, complied. All of these efforts probably saved countless lives. However, if we return to pre-pandemic habits too quickly, we could turn this state into a critical point.

In what situations should you wear a mask and when is it most optional?

In any situation where you could be around other people or share a similar space, you should wear a mask, even outdoors. Obviously, if you are hiking or clearly insulated outdoors, i.e. in your backyard, it is okay to take off your mask. This is a general guide for everyone, not just for those at high risk. Even young people or anyone they feel is at low risk can become infected and spread the disease to other, more vulnerable people.

(Note: Some cities and counties have stricter mask orders than the state of California. Check with your local health orders to see when the law requires you to wear a mask.)

If you have any questions or comments about the coronavirus pandemic, please submit yours via the form below or here.

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