Newsom Rolls Back Coronavirus Reopening for California

A line streams outside of Mike’s Taco Club in Ocean Beach, which is restricting capacity to prevent transmission of the novel coronavirus as San Diego restaurants reopened in time for Memorial Day weekend. (Courthouse News photo/Barbara Leonard)

(CN) — California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered much of California to shut down again, including indoor service at restaurants statewide and churches and hair salons in 30 hard-hit counties as the novel coronavirus wreaks havoc across the Golden State.

Newsom also ordered all bars and movie theaters in the state to close, even in counties with relatively low infection numbers. The state’s wineries must also move their tasting operations outdoors or close if unable to do so, Newsom said. Restaurants and other establishments may continue outdoor activities and are encouraged to “expand opportunities” for outdoor operations if possible, Newsom said.

During a Monday afternoon press conference, the governor flipped what he calls the “dimmer switch” to combat the growing spread of coronavirus cases in many states around the country. Newsom said the approach allows the state to gradually modify certain health and economic restrictions on a county-by-county basis.

While the order to close bars is statewide, Newsom’s other directives for gyms, houses of worship and malls apply only to 30 counties on the Covid-19 watchlist order — although the list grows longer by the day. Newsom said four counties were added to the list Monday — Yuba, Placer, Sutter and Sonoma. The 30 counties on the watchlist account for about 80% of California’s 40 million people.

Newsom said the watchlist is a constantly changing and dynamic one and allows for new counties to be added or removed as the relevant coronavirus factors change locally. He noted more counties will likely be added in the coming days as infections spike and hospitals and intensive care units face a shortage of available beds.

Just a week ago, only 23 counties were on California’s monitoring list.

While California saw 8,358 new coronavirus cases Sunday, Newsom said the focus should be on the seven-day average, which he reported is slightly lower at 8,211.

But a week ago, the seven-day average for California was 7,876. The surge parallels disturbing trends seen around the country, including in Arizona, Texas and Florida.

The governor drew attention to some other key trends, including California’s positivity rate — the number of positive tests divided by the number of people tested. While California’s positivity rate was much higher early on the pandemic, the current seven-day average positivity rate in the state sits at 7.4%, higher than it was two weeks ago.

California has also seen in recent days a slight but notable increase in hospitalization rates and admissions to ICUs.

In hard-hit Los Angeles County, health officials said the efforts to reopen the economy has resulted in a rise in workplace infections.

LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Monday that county health officials have been regularly working with the managers of a manufacturing warehouse where over 300 workers have tested positive for the virus and four have died. The news follows the closure of the LA Apparel factory in South LA last week, which had been deemed an essential business during the Covid-19 health crisis when it began making face coverings.

County health officials on Monday announced 13 new deaths and 2,593 new infections from the virus. The county’s death toll stands at 3,822 with 136,129 infections. Between 2,500 – 3,000 people test positive for the virus every day, giving the county a 9% positivity rate.

The county has seen a bit of good news as outbreaks at skilled nursing homes — which once dominated the county’s cases and death toll — have leveled off in recent weeks. In the last two months health officials have visited 380 skilled nursing facilities, citing 13 for improper use of personal protective equipment used by staff, improper hand washing, insufficient cleaning of facilities and other issues related to infection control.

Some 1.3 million Angelenos have been tested for the coronavirus. The state meanwhile conducted over 137,000 Covid-19 tests on Sunday, Newsom said.

As a heatwave grips much of the Golden State, Newsom said theories that summer heat and humidity would defeat the virus have been debunked.

“I hope all of us recognize that if we were still connected to some notion that when it gets warm it’s going to go away or somehow take summer months or weekends off, this virus has done neither,” Newsom said, reminding residents to keep wearing face masks, washing their hands and practicing physical distancing.

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