SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday touted the state’s progress in COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, reporting that the majority of tests subjects were receiving their results within 48 hours.
During a noon news briefing, Newsom said the state has been averaging over 125,000 tests per day – administering 169,000 tests on Saturday alone – and that 90 percent of those receiving tests are now getting their results within 24-48 hours.
The quick turnaround for results is an essential part of contact tracing for those who are testing positive, Newsom explained.
“As a consequence of that timeliness to test results, it enables our local contact tracers to get to work immediately,” said Newsom.
The state has trained nearly 11,000 staff members with over 1,800 bilingual staff among that number. The state is also providing statewide remote support for those contact tracers.
Newsom turned the podium to Health & Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly who explained how the state’s efforts would bring down COVID-19 case rates. Ghaly said epidemiologists are meeting with contact tracers and local county health officials to provide needed expertise and support.
“[We’re] building up this infrastructure across the state so we can continue to box in the virus as much as we can and make sure that a single case doesn’t turn into 20 or 30 cases from that single one,” said Ghaly.
Ghaly said over 95 percent of local health departments are contacting all new COVID-19 cases the same day as the test result is received. Additionally, over 97 percent of local health departments are contacting all contacts exposed on the same day.
Ghaly said that the state teams are working with local jurisdictions with school-based modules to trace cases among students and teachers as well as outbreak investigations.
Newsom returned to talk about the importance of quarantine and isolation in containing the virus, emphasizing the support available to those who have contracted COVID-19. Newsom noted that there is job-protected paid sick leave for the state’s workforce and that the group Housing for Harvest was working to assist agricultural and farmworkers.
He also once again highlighted the funds being provided by Project Roomkey to help provide support for both high-risk homeless residents and those who have contracted COVID-19. Additionally, the state has received $150 million in federal funds to support county programs along with $83 million in philanthropic funds.
Newsom also said that the state would soon be announcing new developments in testing that will cost less and be more timely through one of California’s testing partnerships.
The governor said the state had tracked a slightly higher number of cases on Sunday with 3,449 cases, up from the seven-day average of 3,321 cases with a positivity rate of 2.6 percent.
Newsom noted that the plateauing of COVID numbers provided “… a sober reminder of how stubborn this disease is,” though the state was continuing to make headway.
“Accordingly, we have made progress on our tiered status. Now 42 counties of the 58 are out of that lower tier, the most restrictive tier, the purple tier,” said Newsom.
Current totals find 16 counties still in that purple tier, while 24 counties were in the red tier, 11 counties in the orange tier and a total of seven counties in the yellow tier, with more counties set to move to less restrictive tiers when Ghaly updates their status on Tuesday.
Still, the governor said that people should remain on guard and adhere to all safety protocols, pointing out that even with the progress being made, California was still averaging nearly 70 COVID-related deaths per day.
Newsom also mentioned one of the major developments as far as what is allowed in terms of private gatherings. As of October 9, the state’s COVID-19 guidelines were adjusted to allow for outdoor private gatherings under specific conditions.
Attendees at such gatherings must be from no more than three separate households and the duration of such gatherings should be two hours or less. At any gathering, individuals need to observe standard safety protocols of wearing masks, practice physical distancing of six feet and washing hands frequently.
“As we approach so many traditional days and activities, and we expect people asking the question, ‘How do we, in a lower-risk way, come together with people, maybe that we haven’t seen in a long time?’ And the purpose of this small gatherings guidance that is now posted on the California Department of Public Health website is really to not say it’s a good idea or appropriate to gather with three families, but to really say more than three households you really are increasing your risk,” explained Dr. Ghaly.
The governor went on to encourage the state’s residents to remain cautious when it comes to gatherings.
“Guidance doesn’t mean go…That does not mean people should just now just rush back to their original form as it relates to the kinds of activities we’ve seen in the past, even modified activities. We want to caution against that,” said Newsom.
Newsom also said that state officials would continue to discuss possible plans to reopen theme parks with park operators.
The governor began his news briefing with praise for several California Nobel laureates who were awarded Nobel Prizes in science in the last week, saluting scientists and professors from UC Berkeley and Stanford who were awarded prizes in medicine, chemistry and economics.