SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly updated the public on the state’s COVID cases Tuesday, announcing that more counties had moved backwards into the purple tier while commending some Bay Area counties for holding steady in their tier positions.
Though the news of still surging COVID-19 cases in the state remained grim, on a more positive note, the Bay Area counties that were at the red tier — Marin San Francisco and San Mateo — have not moved to the purple tier.
When asked about those counties, Ghaly replied, “I think each county has a slightly different story. I will remind you that just a couple weeks ago San Francisco was in the yellow tier, so let’s not make any mistake; they’ve seen a significant surge in cases, and we believe that some of the tools they put in place will be helpful. And we hope to see them hold steady where they are, but we are fully prepared that they may not. I think we have seen it from the beginning that certain communities, certain counties do take some of the guidance more to heart than others.”
Ghaly added, “I do commend them [San Francisco health officials] for continuing to sound the alarm to communicate effectively through their own public health leaders, local leaders, but also community leaders. There’s a number of health care professionals that I know are sounding the alarm throughout the Bay Area and in those counties in particular and that will make the difference. Whatever they have there, I hope we can spread throughout the state and stop this surge and not just get people to hold steady where they are but hopefully to see these trends turnaround.”
Around the Bay Area, positivity rates ranged from the higher end of 3.7 percent in Contra Costa County and 3.4 percent in Santa Clara County to Alameda County at 2.7 percent to the lower end of the spectrum with San Francisco at 2.15 percent and Marin County at 1.5 percent.
Despite Dr. Ghaly’s praise, San Francisco Department of Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax on Tuesday said he expects the city to hit the purple tier by later this week.
In terms of the state’s Blueprint for a Safe Economy risk assessment status, Ghaly said that as of Tuesday, a total of 45 counties were now in the most restrictive purple tier with Colusa, Del Norte, Humboldt and Lassen counties all moving from the red to purple tier since last week.
Calaveras County was the one county moving from the orange tier to the red tier, Ghaly said. With Alpine and Mariposa moving back to the orange tier, the state has no counties residing in the lowest risk, least restrictive yellow tier.
Ghaly did say that some counties had actually reduced case numbers in the midst of the surge, but that the numbers would need to hold into next week for those counties to progress to lower risk tiers. He did not say which counties had made that progress.
Dr. Ghaly said the state recorded 15,329 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, with the 7-day average trending upwards to 12,532 cases. Over 283,000 tests were administered on Monday, which stands as a single-day high in California.
Ghaly noted that the state’s current 7-day positivity rate was at 5.9 percent, while the 14-day positivity rate was slightly lower at 5.6 percent. The 14-day positivity rate saw a 51 percent increase between November 10 and November 24 from 3.7 percent to 5.6 percent.
Both the state’s COVID hospitalization and ICU hospitalizations rates have risen dramatically in the past two days, Ghaly said. There are currently 5,844 COVID cases occupying hospital beds, an 81.3 percent spike in the last 14 days. ICU hospitalizations have risen to 1,397 cases at a lower but still dramatic increase of 57.1 percent in the past two weeks.
Ghaly said state officials are remaining in constant contact with hospitals across California to stay on top of the current stretching of hospital resources.
While much of what Ghaly spoke to in terms of curtailing activities, slowing the spread of COVID and reducing exposure risk, he did make a point of how much risk has increased just over the past few weeks.
“Some of the activities that you did a month ago and said, ‘Hey, what’s the big deal? I can just keep doing them this way.’ The truth is that even those activities which felt low risk, felt safer a month ago today are higher risk than many of us realize,” said Ghaly.
With the Thanksgiving holiday only two days away, Ghaly expressed his sadness about how the pandemic would impact the holiday.
“I, like many of you, are disappointed about how this Thanksgiving will look different from years past,” said Ghaly.
However, Ghaly also offered up some strategies for people to refuse invitations to gather that could put loved ones at risk.
“We know it’s not easy to say no and it’s not easy to say no to loved ones. But as we dig deeper into the pandemic and our response, there’s never more important a time than now to use this as an opportunity to let your friends and family know that you’re making a decision to reduce transmission and not gather.”
Ghaly’s Thanksgiving to-do list included:
- Celebrate with members of your own household
- Respectfully say “no” to anything that makes you uncomfortable
- Think of creative ways to share the experience remotely
- Drop off Thanksgiving meals to older love ones and those with medical conditions so they can stay home
- Take necessary precautions to protect your family and friends because you love them
“Saying no effectively starts with just that, saying no. It’s simple, it’s direct and it’s clear. It often helps close the door for further negotiations. It shows that you’re serious and you’ve thought about this in a considerable way and that it’s an important decision,” said Ghaly. “Excuses are tempting, but they can easily backfire and take time to explain why you think this is the right choice. And don’t feel pressure to keep the conversation going. I know that my Mom, for example, can convince me to talk about the same subject a few different ways and just being really clear that the ‘No’ is a no and it’s important.”
— KPIX 5 (@KPIXtv) November 24, 2020
Ghaly also mentioned that the forecast for nice weather in much of the state on Thanksgiving would allow people to bring their celebrations outside, further reducing their risk.
“Never did I ever think to be a weather forecaster or a weather person, but here you go. It looks in California weather this Thursday is certainly going to be mild and even kind of warm. Southern California, where I am, will be in the mid-70s and sun throughout most of the southern part of the state and that gives us an opportunity to be more creative with our Thanksgiving plans,” said Ghaly.
Ghaly also reminded residents to keep the state’s travel advisory in mind if they travel or have others visiting their home during the holiday, as such visits will increase risk of spreading the virus. He said anyone leaving California or hosting visitors from out of state should quarantine for two weeks to be safe.