SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday outlined how California was intervening to decrease the spread of COVID-19 in the Central Valley, saying health officials were following the successful model that reduced the number of coronavirus cases in Imperial County in June.
Newsom was delivering his first address in several days on California’s response to the coronavirus pandemic Monday as he explained how what health officials did to help stop the outbreak in Imperial County in late May and early June was informing the state’s actions in the Central Valley.
“On June 1st, we committed to a new process, a new protocol, to help support the county in their efforts. We began the process of decompressing their hospital system. Over 650 patients were moved out of Imperial County into surrounding and neighboring communities, and in some instances, we even brought patients here into Northern California,” said Newsom. “We approached our strategy in the county more as a strike team, more as a unified command approach; something you would see more traditionally as it relates to how we organize…our approach to dealing with other emergencies such as wildfires.”
Newsom said that approach began in early June when positivity rates in Imperial County were above 30 percent, peaking at 33.3 percent. The state identified local needs and flood the county with resources and technical support to bolster health care for active cases while also working to stop the spread, focusing on prevention at essential workplaces, increasing targeted messaging about COVID safety and closing additional sectors.
“It [the Imperial Valley spike] required a new approach, new strategies and new accountability structures and that’s exactly what took place,” Newsom said, pointing out how the state increased medical personnel and returned to a stricter stay-at-home order.
It was a similar spike in cases that led to the state’s targeted intervention in the eight counties of the Central Valley.
“Hospitalization and ICU rates increase, not just positivity rates in the Valley, outpacing the rest of California. If you ask me today, what our biggest area of concern in a state as large as ours, it is indeed the Central Valley,” explained Newsom.
The governor said that in addition to the $52 million being used to help the Central Valley that he had announced last week, philanthropy in the state has provided another $6.5 million to ensure essential supplies, food, rent and utilities for vulnerable families.
Newsom said that the average number of new cases has dropped somewhat, with 5,739 confirmed cases on August 2 and a 7-day average of 7,764 new cases daily over the past week.
The 14-day positivity rate was also tracking downward, dropping to 7 percent after hovering at 7.5 percent for the past two weeks. The hospitalization rate and ICU rate were also declining.
Newsom cautioned that increased testing will drive the state’s positivity numbers up and state public health officials will need to see at least two to three more weeks of sustained decreases in positivity before allowing businesses like salons and indoor dining to reopen.
“The seven-day positivity rate … is not where it needs to be, it is still too high,” Newsom said. “But, again, it is good to see this number trending down, not trending up.”
The governor also noted that there were now 38 counties on the state’s monitoring list, with all Bay Area counties including last week’s addition of San Mateo County remaining on the list.
As he often does, the governor warned residents against complacency in the face of the spreading virus.
“We are seeing a lot of spread now in people’s backyards, their front yards as well as in their living rooms,” said Newsom. “If you are living with someone who has tested positive or has come into contact with someone who has tested positive, please stay home. Don’t share items. Do the kind of disinfecting that is foundational in mitigating the spread of this disease.”