California sees an increase in the number of cases, for the second consecutive day

On Tuesday, California experienced some of its highest numbers of new coronavirus cases, surpassing 6,000 new cases in a 24-hour period for the second consecutive day as the state moved forward with plans to reopen.

Dramatic increases in new cases were seen in various parts of the state: Santa Clara County posted its highest daily total for new coronavirus cases in more than two months on Tuesday, with 121 cases, a “worrying” increase, health officials said. .

Sacramento County recorded the highest number of new cases in one day, at 131.

The jump in cases occurs when the state reopens restaurants, bars, lounges, and gyms.

Statewide, more than 190,000 people have tested positive for the virus, with almost 28% of all reported cases in the past 14 days. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert at UC Berkeley, said part of that escalation is due to increased evidence, but that “the evidence alone is insufficient to explain the increase in the number of cases.”

Multiple sources are driving the waves. Large outbreaks have been reported in several jails, including the San Quentin State Prison in Marin County. The groups are still leaving the skilled nursing facility. At least one county has linked local cases to recent civil rights protests.

And as orders to stay home are raised, there are more cases of people returning to work and socializing.

California reported a record 6,232 new cases on Monday and topped 6,000 cases again on Tuesday night with several counties still to report, according to data compiled by The Chronicle. Southern California is driving most of the recent spikes, but the Bay Area has seen huge increases in recent days.

The Bay Area had 20,804 cases as of Tuesday night, and daily reports from the nine counties have regularly approved 300 new cases in the past week. The area set a record Saturday with 619 new cases, as Alameda and Contra Costa counties reported a day-long total of over 100.

Cases in Santa Clara County until about a week ago had been mostly stable. But even in a county that has moved more slowly than anywhere else in the state toward reopening, the outbreak is gaining ground as people return to work and their social lives.

Health doctor Dr. Sara Cody said the county anticipated an increase in cases after it began reopening outdoor activities and parts of its economy. “But recently we are seeing a worrying sign that this increase may be accelerating,” Cody told the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

“This increase reflects widespread testing, we are finding more of the cases than there are, but it also reflects an increase in cases, because the virus continues to spread,” he said.

Cases are increasing at alarming rates in several states, and on Tuesday the governor of Texas in a local television interview advised residents to stay indoors as cases and numbers of hospitalizations increased. Nationwide, more than 2.3 million people have tested positive and more than 121,000 have died.

The Bay Area had seen slight increases in cases after slowly easing shelter-in-place restrictions beginning in mid-May, but it had largely avoided some of the largest increases seen in other parts of the state. However, over the past week, the region has seen notable leaps in cases.

Solano County has reported 33% of its overall cases in the past seven days, while Sonoma and Napa counties have reported about 18% of their totals in that span.

So far, California’s spikes have not dramatically slowed plans to reopen the state economy, although some counties have paused that process as case counts and hospitalizations increased. Most of the state has reopened broad sectors of the economy, with people now free to return to offices and movie theaters and groom their hair and nails, with some restrictions.

On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom said he had no immediate plans to reissue restrictions on staying home, but that was not ruled out if the cases escalated to alarming levels and the outbreak put pressure on hospitals.

Art Reingold, an infectious disease expert at UC Berkeley, said Tuesday that the frustrating fact is that it can be nearly impossible to reduce coronavirus cases to levels where there is almost no local transmission.

“It may have been unrealistic to think that these measures would have a lasting impact,” Reingold said of the shelter restrictions in place. “I think some of us, myself included, certainly me, underestimated this virus.”

Stephen Shortell, a former dean of the University of California School of Public Health at Berkeley, said that even in California, where early and aggressive outreach measures prevented the overwhelming hospital outbreak, case counts can remain stubbornly high for some time.

“I think we can continue to see this trend for the next few months where there will be ups and downs,” Shortell said. “I am not surprised to see these increases. Disappointed, but not surprised. This will be the new normal until we get a vaccine. “

On Tuesday, the California Department of Public Health changed its description of the state testing positivity rate to “modestly increasing trend” from “stable” in previous daily updates. According to a Chronicle analysis of state data, California’s seven-day positive rate was 4.89% last week, June 15-21, compared with 4.61% the previous week and June 4, 37% two weeks before.

Hospitalizations, which are not subject to test availability, have also been on the rise. California reported 3,868 confirmed patients at the COVID-19 hospital on Monday, its third consecutive day with a new all-time record and an increase of 18.8% in the previous two weeks. The Bay Area reported 258 confirmed hospitalizations on Monday, its highest since May 30.

People sick enough to need hospital care represent the “tip of the iceberg” for the impact of the virus in a community, Swartzberg said, but: “If hospitals are going up, that can’t be explained by tests alone.”

“We are not having the mess states like Arizona and Alabama and Texas and Florida are having,” Swartzberg said. “We got better after that (initial) raise, we did a great job on that. But we really couldn’t bring these cases down any further. They went down and then sat there and just burned. But now it looks like maybe it’s going in the wrong direction.” .

Santa Clara County, initially the most affected area in the Bay Area, until recently had not seen a large increase in cases, unlike its neighbors. The county had not reported more than 51 cases in one day since April 11, but in the past six days its daily case counts have skyrocketed.

Cody, the county health official, said the county has seen fewer cases associated with long-term care facilities since May, after focusing on preventing the spread of the virus in that population, but has recorded a jump in associated cases. with outbreaks in the community and the workplace.

Cody said 89 job sites in the county have reported at least one positive case in the past month, and that construction sites represent 38% of that total. Almost half of the county’s cases since May 1 are of unknown origin and “are presumed to be community broadcasts,” Cody said.

On Monday, Santa Clara County reported its highest number of confirmed hospitalized patients (48) and intensive care cases (25) since mid-May. Cody said it is “a little early” to see if the jump in recent cases will result in more hospitalizations or deaths, but that the county is watching its increase in hospital numbers “very closely.”

Regarding Tuesday’s total cases, Cody said the sample collection dates for the positive tests “span many days, but nevertheless it is troubling to see so many cases reported in one day.”

Swartzberg said more cases were expected as many areas of the state eased shelter-in-place rules and social and economic restrictions, but that the recent increase is notable.

“Now is the time to be more cautious, not less cautious,” said Swartzberg. “In any case, just freeze where we are. Perhaps the best we can do is go back a couple of steps. ”

Erin Allday and Matt Kawahara are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Email: [email protected]; [email protected]