SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday laid out some grim figures in the state’s battle to stop the spread of coronavirus cases as numbers continued to skyrocket.
During his update on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Newsom reported that California had 11,694 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed on Tuesday, shattering the state’s single-day record for confirmed cases.
However, Newsom also noted that the alarmingly high number included a backlog of cases from the weekend that Los Angeles County reported late and estimated that the true number of new cases for July 7 was actually below 10,000.
“We had mentioned that on Monday that there was a bit of a backlog. There is a cohort that would actually bring this number below 10,000 that’s represented in the number we’re presenting here today,” Newsom explained.
The governor said the seven-day average of 8,116 positive cases has risen in the last couple of days from a previous seven-day average of 7,876 reported on Monday.
The number of counties on the state’s watch list also grew to 26 with the addition of Napa, San Benito and Yolo counties being added on Wednesday. In the greater Bay Area, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey and Solano counties all remained on the list.
Newsom noted that he was not happy with the continuing rise in cases and the state’s positivity rate.
“We’re looking at a 7.1 percent positivity rate … You’re seeing a doubling, sometimes tripling of a positivity rate in some other states compared to California — by the way, I’m not pleased with a 7.1 percent positivity rate … but in other states that positivity rate is substantially even higher,” Newsom said. “As a consequence testing is increasing, testing supply constraints are starting to present themselves again.”
Newsom blamed the increasing spread of COVID-19 on behavior of individuals refusing to follow the state’s instructions to help reduce the spread of the disease.
“We’re doing this because we’re seeing hospitalizations rates grow … It’s because people are not wearing their masks. People are not, for many different reasons and many different circumstances, practicing the physical distancing that they should and they must, in order to mitigate the spread of this virus,” Newsom said.
Despite that grim news, Newsom offered some reassurances Wednesday, saying that the state was fully equipped and capable of handling the surge in cases.
The governor opened his comments on California’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic Wednesday by talking about the state’s current hospital and ICU capacity.
While he noted the state’s alarming rise in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and ICU cases, he outlined the state’s preparedness plan to handle an increasing surge of patients at both hospitals and alternative care facilities. Hospitals remained at just eight percent of the state’s total capacity.
Newsom also pointed out that the distribution of available hospital beds differed in different regions.
“We have 416 hospitals in this state…but they are not equally distributed in various parts of the state,” Newsom explained. “You have roughly — plus or minus a few thousand — roughly 21,000+ licensed hospital beds in LA, as an example. In Sutter County, you have just 14. So depending on where you live, the assets that are available to you are quite distinctive. You can imagine where, if you have an increase of just a few patients in your ICUs in Sutter, that can represent a huge percentage of your total capacity.”
Newsom also said the state had increased the capacity to staff the facilities, partly through the California Health Corps website taking 35,000 applicants who had valid licenses to work as doctors, nurses and caregivers.
The state has also grown its PPE supply inventory, amassing 46 million N-95 masks and 232 million procedure masks as of this month to distribute to facilities in need. A total of 201 million procedure masks and 79 million N-95 masks have been distributed within California in addition to providing some surplus masks to neighboring states, Newsom said.
Newsom credited part of the state’s preparedness to handle a surge in coronavirus cases to Carmela Coyle, President and CEO of the California Hospital Association and the California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, who also spoke Wednesday.
“We do have an increase in the number of COVID positive individuals in the state of California. For us in the healthcare delivery system, that translates into more people who are in need of hospital care and more people who are in need of intensive care as well,” said Coyle.
She noted that there has been a 44 percent increase in the number of people requiring hospitalization and a 38 percent increase in the number needing ICU care over the past two weeks.
Coyle said that hospitals have been adjusting their emergency plans based on what has been learned over the first few months of the pandemic, building up PPE inventory, cross-training staff members, finding available space at hospitals and partnering with facilities in different regions.
Coyle said the advice people already have heard is also what’s needed to help manage the surge.
“The best way that we can expand and have as much capacity as we need to treat COVID-positive and patients with COVID-19 disease is to make sure we are stopping the spread of the infection in the first place. And that is all about masks and social distancing and hand hygiene. Every time you do that in your home, in your neighborhood and in your community you are helping a nurse, you are helping a doctor, you’re helping a hospital, and you’re saving a life.”