California officials implored residents to wear face masks and stay away from each other, after a record number of people were hospitalized with coronavirus over the weekend.
The state has reported more than 5,500 deaths and more than 178,000 cases, with more than 3,700 hospitalized on Sunday, beating the previous record of 3,547 hospitalizations set in late April. Health officials warned that while the spread of the disease appears to have stabilized in many parts of the state, metrics in some rural regions in southern and central California are cause for concern.
California is experiencing a surge in new cases as shopping malls, museums, movie theaters, and other public gathering spaces reopened across the state, with 46,735 Covid-19 positive Californians in the past two weeks. That number represents more than a third of all known cases since March, Governor Gavin Newsom said at a press conference on Monday.
The increased evidence can only partially explain the large increase, he added. “Those who suggest that we are out of the woods, those who say this is just going to go away, these numbers tell a very, very different and sobering story,” he said.
Newsom issued an order requiring almost all Californians to wear masks in public last week, but politics has met resistance in some parts of the state. In some of the counties where cases and hospitalizations have increased, local officials have reduced requirements for wearing masks in public amid the rebellion. In Fresno County, a face mask rule was in effect for a day before it was removed. In Riverside and San Bernardino counties, officials have noted an increase in social gatherings as one of the main reasons for cases and hospitalizations increasing. Both counties relaxed the rules for wearing masks after the public outcry.
In Orange County, the top health official resigned after being harassed and receiving death threats for his county-wide face mask order. His replacement terminated the order after pressure from the local board of supervisors.
“It really hasn’t helped that some of these groups have thought that wearing a face mask is the first step in tyranny or communism,” said David Hayes-Bautista, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles.
While Donald Trump and right-wing politicians and the media ridiculed the masks as unnecessary, Newsom recruited four former governors to help spread the message that “no matter who you voted for, or if you did not vote at all,” wear masks. can save lives. Former Republican governor and bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger implicitly rejected the sentiment of the right, emphasizing: “This is not about being weak.”
“We know that masks are an effective way to prevent infection,” said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a physician and epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco. “I am concerned that when we cannot send very simple messages about wearing masks to the entire population, it is our poor and marginalized communities that will end up being the most affected.”
Statewide, Latinx patients account for 57% of all coronavirus cases, despite comprising only 39% of the population. A study in the Mission district of San Francisco found that, amid the shelter restrictions in place in April, only 2% of the neighborhood hired Covid-19, but the vast majority of those who did so were Latinx and they couldn’t work from home.
Across the state, a large proportion of front-line workers in supermarkets, restaurants, farms, meatpacking plants, and construction sites are Latinx “and work to keep our environment safe and clean,” Bibbins-Domingo said. As communities ease restrictions, going to a restaurant or grocery store without a mask may be fine for the customer who spends a few minutes or hours outside without protection. But for restaurant and store workers who are exposed to many people without masks, “that can really put them at risk,” he said.
While the proportion of people who tested positive in California remains below the World Health Organization threshold of 5% to safely reopen, the figure has slowly risen in the past week, from 4.5% to 4.8 %.
Outbreaks in homeless shelters, nursing homes and prisons have also contributed to the increase in cases, authorities said. The outbreaks that left a quarter of the infected inmates at Avenal State Prison and the California Men’s Institution in Chino, both in Southern California, have killed 17 inmates and spread through staff to surrounding areas.
Still, the number of ICU admissions and hospitalizations has remained relatively stable, advancing by about 1% over the past week. Records do not currently show an increase after weeks of protests against police brutality, likely because the protests took place outside, where the virus is less likely to spread, and many protesters wore masks, health experts said.
While the state is still on track to finish training more than 10,000 contact trackers in July to help catch and curb any eruption of cases, “contact tracking is as solid, good, and successful as we have the ability to allow people … can safely insulate at home, “health secretary Mark Ghaly said at the briefing on Monday.
Those who cannot afford to stay home and those who do not have access to a safe or stable shelter are more vulnerable to a pandemic that “has really illuminated the x-rays of inequalities in American society,” Hayes-Bautista noted. . As the uneven number of coronaviruses in blacks and browns becomes increasingly clear, officials have yet to “address all the structural situations behind that inequality,” he said.