Newsom pushes for new orders to stay home in Imperial County

Imperial County has been so overwhelmed by the coronavirus that the state recommends that county officials re-impose a strict stay-at-home order, Governor Gavin Newsom said Friday.

Newsom also said the state has “paused” the issuance of additional guidelines that would allow counties to accelerate the reopening of their economies and ease restrictions, also in response to the acceleration of hospitalizations for COVID-19, including seriously ill patients. sent to intensive care units.

At the same time, San Bernardino County officials said that local hospitals are beginning to reach “augmentation capacity” due to new cases of coronavirus, which means they are nearing their licensed limits for quantity. of beds available.

They stressed that there is still room for more patients, but said the system is getting stressed.

The county said it would consider opening alternative patient care sites if the hospitals fill up.

California health officials said the increase in San Bernardino cases and hospitalizations was due to transmission in the workplace, as well as transmission to state prisons, hospitals, county jails, and skilled nursing facilities and by the transfer of hospitalized patients from Imperial County.

The change came a day after the number of coronavirus cases in California exceeded 200,000, as the state continues to report a spike in new infections that officials now say cannot be explained by increased testing alone. .

Newsom said that in the past 14 days, nearly one in four people tested in Imperial County has tested positive for coronavirus, well above the state average of one in 20 residents. More than 500 hospital patients have been transferred out of the county to ease pressure on rural county hospitals.

With 5,744 cases and 73 deaths, Imperial County has the highest rate of coronavirus cases per capita in California, according to The Times’ tracker. It also has the highest test positivity rate of any county in the state, averaging seven days at 23%, compared to 5.7% statewide, Newsom said Friday.

“We are advising and advising them to go ahead and reinstate an order to stay home, but they will move at their discretion,” he said. “If they cannot reach a consensus, I am committed to intervening, as is my role and responsibility as governor in the state of California.”

Imperial is among the 15 counties in California that the state is monitoring because they have exceeded state-established criteria for addressing the pandemic, including thresholds for hospitalizations and positive COVID-19 tests.

The Newsom administration is working with health officials in those 15 counties to ensure they receive state support, whether that means sending additional health workers or ventilators or moving COVID-19 patients to other counties.

The governor said the decision to pause publication of the state guidelines was made a week ago and influenced Disney’s decision to delay the reopening of its theme parks in Anaheim.

“We are advising and encouraging counties like Imperial … to alternate,” Newsom said. “More than a week ago, as a state, we recognized that we were not making progress, that we had already stopped the reopening of certain sectors of our economy with the guidelines that were being published.”

Newsom said state health officials are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine if the outbreak in Imperial County has been exacerbated by COVID-19 patients coming from Arizona, now a coronavirus hot spot. , and Mexico. The county borders both.

Newsom said the study focuses on specific health data, not “political experts.” He said the study results could be released as soon as today.

San Francisco is also pausing to relax its orders to stay home amid a surge in new cases, Mayor London Breed announced Friday.

The city was slated for Monday to allow the reopening of bars, museums, zoos, tattoo parlors, and outdoor personal-care services such as nail and beauty salons and massage studios, but now it will be delayed, Breed said.

“Our reopening process is governed by data and science,” he wrote in a tweet. “COVID-19 cases are increasing across CA. We are now seeing an increase in cases in SF as well. Our numbers are still low but increasing rapidly. “

San Francisco had reported 3,400 cases of the virus and 48 deaths, as of Thursday.

Newsom said Friday that the decision was made by local authorities, not the state.

“What San Francisco did is exactly what the system was designed for, and that is to empower local health officials, based on conditions in their communities,” he said. Remember, I can’t say this enough. California is not one size fits all. ”

The news comes amid a dizzying number of California coronavirus cases.

The state broke a daily record of new cases on Monday, reporting more than 6,000 infections for the first time. That number increased further on Tuesday, when 6,652 new cases were reported. The state reported 4,629 new cases on Wednesday and 5,069 on Thursday, according to The Times’ coronavirus tracker, bringing its cumulative total to more than 200,000.

Authorities have attributed part of the increase in the daily case count to more tests done and said other metrics, such as the average number of daily hospitalizations and the overall rate of people testing positive, give a better idea of ​​how the patient is doing. been in his state. fight the virus

Both metrics now suggest that the spread of the virus has accelerated.

California has seen a 32% increase in hospitalizations for patients with confirmed COVID-19 disease, and a 19% increase in ICU patients with verified infections, in the past 14 days.

The rate at which coronavirus tests confirm infections is also on the rise. On Thursday, 5.6% of coronavirus test results were positive on average over the previous seven days; a week earlier, 4.6% were positive for the virus, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times. By Friday, the rate had slightly increased to 5.7%, Newsom said.

Los Angeles County continues to be abuzz with new infections, accounting for more than 45% of the state’s total cases and more than 55% of its COVID-19 deaths. County public health director Barbara Ferrer reported more than 2,000 new cases Thursday for the fourth time in a week.

“As you may know, the data now shows concerning trends,” Ferrer said in a statement. “This week we have seen cases increase, hospitalizations increase, and the positivity rate for tests increases.”

After several weeks of relative stability, Los Angeles County’s most recent three-day average daily hospitalizations reflected a 9% increase, according to the Department of Public Health panel that tracks reopening metrics.

There were 1,633 confirmed coronavirus patients in county hospitals on Thursday, with 25% in intensive care and 18% in ventilators.

There was concern that the increase could stress the health system, if the trend persists.

Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of health services for Los Angeles County, said Monday that while the county has enough hospital beds available, the number of beds in intensive care units may be limited in the coming weeks.

Since then, the four hospitals managed by the Department of Health Services reported a 36% drop in the total number of beds available in the ICU, from approximately 50 beds available on Monday to 32 beds available on Friday.

According to data released by the Department of Health Services, the 70 Los Angeles County 911 designated hospitals reported a 14% decrease in available beds in the ICU between Monday and Thursday, from 188 available beds to 161.

Still, the most recent three-day average of available ICU beds reported by the county, which is considered a more stable indicator, reflects a 5% increase in capacity, according to the DHS dashboard.

The county’s overall positivity rate is also increasing, reaching 9% on Friday after staying at 8% since late May, authorities said. A total of 1,020,322 people in Los Angeles County had been tested for the coronavirus and received their results.

“We also know that the average age of infected people, including newly infected people, tends to be younger than before,” Ferrer said Thursday.

About 40% of coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County occur between 18 and 40 years of age.

Ferrer said earlier this week that the increase in new cases was “very likely” related to people gathered during the protests, as well as groups of visitors to restaurants and parties, as well as recently reopened workplaces where employees are in close contact with one another.

The virus also appears to be spreading faster in other parts of the state.

In addition to Los Angeles and Imperial, 13 counties have reported elevated disease transmission, increased hospitalizations, or limited hospital capacity that exceeds state guidelines: Contra Costa, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Joaquín, Santa Bárbara, Santa Clara, Stanislaus, Tulare and Ventura.

The state’s public health team is working with those counties to provide targeted support to help identify and deal with the specific drivers of the increases, and to ensure that surges do not overwhelm the hospital system.

“Certainly, if we get to a point where, despite all those good collaborative efforts, a county needs to assert itself or get the support of the state to reintroduce some level of change in the way people are moving, the state and counties are up for it, Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of health and human services, said earlier this month.

Orange County, which is not on the state-specific participation list, reported 26 deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, the most in a single day. Authorities noted that not all of those people died on that particular day. The recently reported deaths date to May 9, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Although the county also reported 506 new coronavirus infections Thursday, the local Health Care Agency said the number “reflects another large batch of cases” from a state reporting system and that these people who tested positive “obtained their samples at 28 different dates. “

On Thursday, the county announced seven other deaths, bringing its total number of coronavirus-related deaths to 306.

Times staff writers Colleen Shalby and Soumya Karlamangla contributed to this report.