SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday said that nearly 60 percent of new coronavirus cases were among people in a specific age group as positivity rates continued to rise in addition to giving more details on the state’s plan to distribute a vaccine.
Providing his regular address updating the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic from home due to quarantining with his family, Newsom started the update by briefly addressing his family’s situation that was confirmed over the weekend.
On Sunday night, the governor tweeted that three of his children had been exposed to the coronavirus via a CHP officer that was infected, forcing the family to go into quarantine for the next two weeks.
Newsom said that he and his family had tested negative so far and would continue getting regular tests until the quarantine period was completed.
He went on to highlight the unprecedented rise in COVID-19 cases that California had seen in the past week. A total of 8,337 new cases were confirmed on November 22, with the state’s 7-day average rising to 11,591. He also pointed out that the state collected a record number of tests on Saturday, November 21, with over 265,000 tests administered.
The state’s 7-day average is closing on 200,000 tests per day, currently hitting 198,379, the governor said.
Newsom noted that an alarming number of new cases were emerging in a specific age cohort.
“The 18-to-49 age cohort that is now representing 60 percent of all of our new cases. Back to the mythology that somehow this disease separates itself exclusively by age or vulnerabilities that are defined by pre-existing conditions and the like,” explained Newsom. “It transcends, it impacts all populations, of course not equally in terms of its ultimate impact, but nonetheless the case numbers impact age cohorts across the spectrum, and as you can see on this chart, disproportionately now are impacting 18-to-49-year-olds.”
While the 7-day average for the U.S. positivity rate is significantly higher than the state’s at 9.8 percent, Newsom noted that California’s positivity rate has continued to climb, with the state’s 14-day positivity rate now reaching 5.5 percent as of Sunday. The 7-day average measured slightly higher at 5.8 percent.
“Just last week when I updated you with the slide presentation, we were at 4.6 percent positivity rate, so you can see the rate of increase growing and that the cause for obvious concern and some of the recent announcements that we’ve made in the state,” said Newsom.
The governor said that the state’s hospitalization rate had also risen alarmingly, with a 77 percent increase in cases that ended up in California hospitals over the past two weeks to nearly 5,500. Despite that rise, those cases only represented about seven percent of the total number of hospital beds available in the state.
The ICU admissions had also risen sharply, but at a more modest of approximately 55 percent over the past two weeks to 1,333 total ICU patients, which amounts to about 17 percent of the state’s ICU capacity.
Newsom spoke briefly about the limited curfew in place for all counties currently in the Purple Tier, restricting all non-essential activities between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. that has been met with some frustration and resistance by struggling business owners.
The governor said officials were hopeful that reducing movement and mixing of households would limit the spread of the virus and acknowledge the challenges the order was making for residents for the next month.
“We want to extend this for a four-week period. This is effect through 12/21,” said Newsom. “We’re hoping that’s all we’ll need, but we’ll see. We’re open minded to the dynamics of the conditions that are changing in real time, but that’s the current hope and expectation.”
As officials have reiterated over the past several weeks, Newsom again discouraged people from embarking on trips during the Thanksgiving holiday.
“The travel advisory is one of those that we put out a number of weeks back to discourage non-essential travel. Not mandating, but discouraging it,” said Newsom. “Reminding folks when they come back into the state, the importance of doing exactly what I’m doing as related to quarantining and making sure you get tested and avail yourself.”
The governor also spoke at length on what the state would be doing as far as it’s plan to distribute the vaccine once it is available, referring to California’s vaccine plan that was issued in October.
Newsom said that while the distribution of a vaccine on such a large scale will be unprecedented, the state is not starting from scratch, having past experience with the H1N1 and annual flu vaccine distribution.
The first wave of vaccinations would be limited, prioritizing healthcare workers, people working at congregate care facilities and first responders as well as those who are medically vulnerable. The first phase of vaccinations will target some 2.4 million healthcare workers in the state.
Newsom said the state is awaiting FDA approval of one or more vaccines supplied by companies like Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, but he noted that mass distribution of any developed vaccine would still be months away.
“The first tranche of vaccinations with Pfizer and Moderna and AstraZeneca… will be extraordinary limited,” said Newsom. “It shouldn’t surprise anybody that the Phase I vaccination distribution plan, in terms of prioritization, is focusing first and foremost on our healthcare workers, these truly essential workers that are now experiencing even more stress after months and months of intense stress. Not only have they been on this marathon, now we’re all on this sprint to a vaccine.
The governor continued: “We’re also prioritizing individuals in congregant care settings, those that are medically vulnerable. Skilled nursing facilities, residential care facilities, assisted living facilities, and of course our first responders and other critical infrastructure.”
In terms of budgeting for COVID vaccine distribution, the state has received $28 million in funding from the CDC, with $10 million allocated to local health for planning and an additional $6 million allocated to staffing.
Additional CDC funding is expected to be released in the near future, Newsom said.
Dr, Mark Ghaly added, “California is preparing, has been preparing and is ready to work with our local partners, our federal partners, to make sure the vaccines, which are really weeks away for some populations are ready and that we use it as the important tool as they are.”
Dr. Ghaly also touched on the still rising number of COVID cases and how they were impacting medical facilities.
“We know that our hospitals already are seeing levels of surge that they’ve never seen before, even at the height of our June and July peak of cases,” said Ghaly. “We now have hospitals across the state that are telling us that their sense is, the number of people with COVID-19 in their hospitals is higher than its ever been.”
Ghaly also reiterated some possible options for safe behavior during the Thanksgiving holiday.
“The clearest guidance is to celebrate with your own household. There’s lots of ways to connect with those that you love,” said Ghaly. “Some people are not able to prepare a meal and maybe that’s the urge to gather with them. But there’s other ways to support those individuals to make those connections: dropping off a meal and sharing it when you Zoom together. These are all options that give us opportunities to lower our risk, lower the risk of others, but hopefully still have that important connection that we all look forward to during these upcoming holidays.”