SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday outlined the progress the state had made during the coronavirus pandemic while warning — once again — that the state was “not out of the woods.”
The governor opened his remarks noting that a state with the size and population of California was the equivalent of managing the coronavirus response of 21 states in the U.S., presenting a substantial challenge that California has met well so far.
“Our focus remains, very, very, very direct at addressing the spread of COVID-19 and cognizant of the fact that we are by no stretch of the imagination out of the woods,” Newsom said during a press briefing.
Newsom said it’s good news that crowds of people out enjoying the sun on Memorial Day weekend did not cause a massive spike in new COVID-19 cases and that same is true at least so far with ongoing protests.
“As we mix, as we reopen, inevitably we are going to see an increase in the total number of cases. It’s our capacity to address that that is so foundational and to make sure we are prepared for spikes,” Newsom said.
Newsom said that state officials were remaining focused on the coronavirus, even as California moved deeper into the process of reopening.
To that end, the preparation time that March lockdowns afforded worked. The state has stockpiled over 175 million procedure masks and 1.4 million N95 masks. Some 7000 contact tracers are due to come online by July 1. Last spring’s worries over ventilators have turned into surpluses.
“Having more than 11,000 vents is from our perspective fairly healthy at this moment,” said Newsom.
The governor also hailed the increase in testing across the state, noting that over the weekend COVID-19 testing numbers remained high with 78,000 tests administered Saturday and 66,000 tests administered on Sunday.
The positivity rate for California has continued to decline, averaging about 4.5 percent over the past two weeks, the governor said. The spread rate, as well as the hospitalization and ICU rates have also remained stable, showing that the state has continued to make progress in reducing the spread of COVID-19 while being ready for a patients surge in the event of a spike in cases.
“We have a state that is holding strong,” said Newsom, noting that California isn’t seeing major drop in coronavirus cases now because it didn’t experience a sizable surge as many East Coast states did.
The governor and Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said the state is closely monitoring COVID-19 data for each county. State officials are engaged with 13 counties that have had three consecutive days with areas of concern to make certain their COVID-19 numbers are still consistent with reopening.
The specific measures the state is focusing on are average tests per day per 100,000, the case rate per 100,000 people, testing positivity, changes in three-day averages in hospitalizations and ICU and ventilator capacity, Ghaly said.
State officials want at least 150 tests administered per 100,000 people with no more than 25 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in each community and a testing positivity rate below 8 percent., according to Ghaly
Among the areas that were being closely monitored were Fresno, Imperial, Kern, King, Los Angeles, San Joaquin and Tulare counties, according to a graphic shown during the Monday press conference.
Dr. Ghaly also noted that the state is seeing a higher rate of cases among the Latino population of California and and a higher death rate in the state’s black population. Officials were trying to determine how to best address those discrepancies, Ghaly said.
The governor said the state was having success with Project Roomkey and its effort to house the homeless population most at risk to contract the virus, with the operation using only 17 percent of the available rooms for homeless individuals who had tested positive for COVID-19.
“That is good news, not bad news, because that means the rate of spread in those populations — at least those that we’ve identified — have not required us to isolate and quarantine as many people as we’d anticipated,” explained Newsom.
Newsom said that nursing homes remain an area of concern and high priority due to the fact that more than 50 percent of the state’s COVID-19 deaths have happened in those facilities.
Newsom said the state had increased the number of trained contact tracers with over 2,000 people having completed the training and nearly 5,000 currently enrolled, indicating California could likely meet the stated goal of having 10,000 contact tracers trained by July 1.
So far 25 counties have joined the states California Connected contact tracing program with another 32 counties in the process of joining. The state’s current plan is to have the capacity to trace 3,600 new cases on any given day.
The governor reemphasized the importance of vigilance and safe practices as far as social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands, pointing out the massive second wave of cases during the 1918 flu pandemic that killed tens of thousands.
“I cannot say this enough and Dr. Ghaly has said it on so many occasions. I’ll end as I began: We are not out of the woods,” said Newsom. “There is perhaps some amnesia, some distraction and understandable angst, this cabin fever that has entered into the national discourse. The nightly news that is understandably focused on other things, but now beginning to refocus on COVID-19 as we see some spikes in other states … All these things are sobering. We are very mindful of that.”
Newsom continued: “It is also incumbent upon us as individuals to be smart! To wear a face covering. To physically distance. To continue to wash your hands and to do the kinds of things that are necessary for us to avoid that second wave.”