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California is ordering most non-essential sectors to immediately close all indoor operations across 19 hard-hit counties for at least the next three weeks, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday afternoon, as the numbers were updated to reflect the grimmest day of the pandemic experienced by the state.
Businesses in the affected counties that cannot stay open on an indoor basis include dine-in restaurants, movie theaters, museums, card rooms and zoos, Newsom said during a Wednesday news conference. The restrictions do not apply to churches.
The list includes Sacramento and 18 other counties that have been on the state health department’s watch list for three or more days. The 19 counties make up about three-quarters of the state’s 40 million residents.
The governor is also ordering all bars, indoor and outdoor, to close in all 19 counties, an expansion that includes all seven he announced Sunday would be required to do so, the eight he recommended do so and four additional counties.
The 19 counties are: Contra Costa, Fresno, Glenn, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Merced, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Solano, Stanislaus, Tulare and Ventura.
The governor also said the state is establishing “enforcement strike teams” that will workplaces that are not complying with statewide pandemic-related orders. The teams will include personnel from the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Cal-Osha, the California Highway Patrol and a few other agencies.
Newsom also during Wednesday’s news conference said those counties should consider canceling all July 4 fireworks shows.
California’s worst month of the coronavirus pandemic by nearly all available metrics, June has finally ended, but the state still finds itself on a troubling trajectory.
New COVID-19 infections, hospitalized cases and patients in intensive care units have all roared to record-high levels several times in the past two-plus weeks, and they haven’t showed any signs of slowing down, according to the most recent data.
California has now reported more than 232,000 positive cases of the respiratory disease, of which at least 6,090 people have died, the state’s health department said in a Wednesday update. More than 70,000 infections have emerged in the past two weeks.
A total of 5,196 people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 were hospitalized statewide as of that time, up from about 3,100 in mid-June. The hospitalization figure has surged by 619 patients in the past three days: an increase of 199 was reported Monday, followed by 301 Tuesday and 119 Wednesday.
There are now 1,600 patients in the ICU with COVID-19 and fewer than 3,600 available beds as of Wednesday, the state reports.
Statewide, labs have processed more than 4.1 million diagnostic tests, conducting more than 100,000 in a day twice in the past week. But the positive test result rate, which can serve as a better indicator of actual virus spread than the raw infection totals as the state bolsters its testing capacity, has risen sharply as well.
Over the last 14 days, 5.6 percent of all tests performed in California have come back positive; in the past week, it’s 5.9 percent. The state’s rolling 14-day average had been as low as 4.1 percent in late May, which also marked one of the quietest periods post-shutdown in terms of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Newsom had defended his decision to reopen California’s economy, which included state-issued guidance and restrictions requiring social distancing measures by businesses that were allowed to open back up.
But more recently, including during his Tuesday news conference, Newsom has suggested that business reopenings may have less directly led Californians to let their guard down, as they gathered privately in homes with friends and extended family members while unmasked, paying little attention to social distancing protocols.
“If we’re going to solve the magnitude of this crisis,” Newsom said Tuesday, “we have to do something faster.”
Sacramento County health leaders say local contact tracing investigations have linked the recent spike in cases with large in-home gatherings, such as birthday or graduation parties, many of them coinciding with last month’s Memorial Day holiday.
Bars, though, also present a particularly high concern among non-essential businesses: they’re social settings where patrons remove masks to consume alcohol, then gather in close proximity as inebriation impairs judgment and makes social distancing a challenge, according to the state health department’s news release accompanying Sunday’s closure announcement.
In the capital region, Sacramento County reported more than 200 new lab-positive cases each of Monday and Tuesday, the first two times that threshold has been crossed since the pandemic started. Health officials reported another 174 cases Wednesday for 3,397 all-time. Hospitalizations continue to soar: 106 were in hospital beds countywide as of Tuesday, state data updated Wednesday shows, up from 98 the previous day. Of those 106, 29 were in the ICU, the state dashboard shows.
Of the upcoming July 4 holiday weekend, Sacramento County health chief Dr. Peter Beilenson urged: “No parades, no barbecues ... We are imploring people not to gather this weekend.”
San Quentin prison outbreak grows to 1,100 inmates, 110 staff
A severe COVID-19 outbreak has continued at San Quentin, California’s oldest state prison, where now more than 1,100 inmates have tested positive for the disease, more than double the 539 infected there late last week. The prison’s population is about 3,500.
More than 110 San Quentin employees have also tested positive, according to a dashboard maintained by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
It’s the worst outbreak at a California state prison so far, and has been attributed to a poorly managed inmate transfer from the California Institution for Men in Chino, where as of Tuesday more than 500 inmates have been infected and at least 16 have died. The outbreak began at San Quentin after more than 120 incarcerated men were transferred there from the Chino prison on May 30.
What federal remdesivir supply purchase means for California
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Monday that the Trump administration had secured more than 500,000 treatment courses of remdesivir, an anti-viral drug that has proved crucial in treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Sacramento and Yolo counties’ public health departments ran out of their donated allotments of the drug last week.
The administration bought the stock from Gilead Sciences and plans to resell those to U.S. hospitals through September. State health departments will be allotted a supply of the drug based on their COVID-19 hospital burden, according to an HHS news release.
Azar said the medication will be distributed to CDPH and other state public health agencies, just as Gilead’s donated supplies of the drugs have been over the last two months.
Hospitals would now pay $3,200 per treatment course, the amount Gilead charges on a wholesale basis, HHS said in a news release. The cost would be passed along to Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers.
Minor League Baseball season officially canceled: No River Cats games
As Major League Baseball proceeds toward a shortened, 60-game season set to begin July 24 after mandatory COVID-19 testing Wednesday, there will be no Minor League Baseball season.
MiLB made the announcement Tuesday, after MLB decided it wouldn’t provide players to minor league affiliates during the pandemic.
The Pacific Coast League, the minor league in which the Sacramento River Cats play, had never canceled a season since in its history, dating back to 1903, though it had been suspended in the middle of one season due to World War I.
However, Maxson said the San Francisco Giants are considering Sutter Health Park as an alternate training site for their so-called “taxi squad.” The River Cats are the Giants’ minor-league affiliate.
Yuba-Sutter region faces spike, workplace outbreak
COVID-19 cases in the Yuba-Sutter region have increased, averaging 15 cases per day since June 22. The rates of the disease are significantly higher than in past months when average daily cases ranged from less than one to five.
Yuba-Sutter Health Officer Dr. Phuong Luu warned that the upward trend could lead to more deaths, saying it is “vitally important” that people follow health precautions to minimize the transmission of the virus.
“We know that living life amidst COVID-19 is a marathon, not a sprint,” Luu said.
Hospitalizations in the Yuba-Sutter region have also increased, with one case directly tied to an outbreak at a local manufacturing plant.
The workplace outbreak has led to five confirmed cases among employees and 15 confirmed cases among family members.
The region is facing a spike in confirmed cases due to the convergence of transmission among household members, transmission during social gatherings and transmission at essential businesses, according to Rachel Rosenbaum, a media and community relations specialist for Yuba County. Previously, these vectors of transmission were largely separate, but their recent convergence allows for further spread of the virus.
Public health officials encourage the public to use facial coverings and socially distance, especially during the upcoming 4th of July holiday.
Latest in Sacramento area: Nearly 4,800 infected, 103 dead
The four-county capital region has approached 4,800 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the roughly four months it has been spreading. Of those, at least 103 have died.
Sacramento County has reported 3,397 total infections and 68 fatalities from the disease, last updated Wednesday morning. Over 2,000 of those cases have come within capital city limits, according to the county dashboard. County health officials estimate 1,751 cases as “likely recovered,” which means health officials believe there are close to 1,600 active cases in Sacramento County.
Placer County now reports 724 infections and 11 total deaths, last updated Wednesday morning with 41 new cases after a record-smashing 40 cases Tuesday. Two deaths were reported last week after about a month with none. Placer had 14 confirmed cases in the hospital, with four of them in the ICU, as of the most recent update. Based on its dashboard, Placer estimates about 244 cases are active.
Yolo County saw a record-setting 29 new cases Wednesday, and now 555 have been infected and 24 have died in the county. The increase comes after 25 were infected Tuesday and 23 were infected Monday. Seventeen of the 24 fatalities have come at Stollwood Convalescent Hospital in Woodland, the site of an outbreak first reported in April.
El Dorado County has kept its numbers low, but as of Wednesday, 198 people have tested positive for the virus, and three people are currently in the hospital for COVID-19. No one has died from the virus there. The county on Monday reported 20 new COVID-19 cases that had accumulated over the weekend. On Tuesday afternoon, the county reported six new cases. About half of all cases stem from the Lake Tahoe region.
Sutter County has as of Tuesday afternoon a total of 190 coronavirus cases and three deaths, with four people currently hospitalized. The county on Monday reported four new cases from over the weekend. Yuba County, which has a case total of 75 and one death, reported six new cases Tuesday.
World numbers: 512,000 dead, including 128,000 in U.S.
More than 10.6 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 worldwide and over 514,000 have died, according to data maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. accounts for more than 128,000 of those fatalities and 2.68 million total cases, roughly one-quarter of each global total.
Following the United States are Brazil at 60,000 deaths, the United Kingdom at nearly 44,000 dead, Italy at just under 35,000 fatalities, France at close to 30,000, Spain at over 28,000 and Mexico nearing 28,000 deaths.
What is COVID-19? How is the coronavirus spread?
Coronavirus is spread through contact between people within 6 feet of each other, especially through coughing and sneezing that expels respiratory droplets that land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. The CDC says it’s possible to catch the disease COVID-19 by touching something that has the virus on it, and then touching your own face, “but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”
Symptoms of the virus that causes COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath, which may occur two days to two weeks after exposure. Most develop only mild symptoms, but some people develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal. The disease is especially dangerous to the elderly and others with weaker immune systems.
Sacramento Bee reporters Rosalio Ahumada, Cathie Anderson, Jason Anderson, Tony Bizjak, Sophia Bollag, Molly Burke and Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks contributed to this report. Listen to our daily briefing: