Reminding many of the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an order on Monday requiring that many indoor activities be shut down again to control the spread of the coronavirus.
With the latest state orders in an ever-changing social and economic environment under COVID-19, the governor’s order will affect businesses and social activities, and will also cause schools to consider going back to remote instruction for at least the first part of the coming school year.
Back in April, Newsom laid out the conditions for reopening the state after a month of strict lockdowns and quarantines, and then relaxed those conditions in early May, allowing businesses and indoor activities to gradually reopen. At the time, he said that the state’s guidelines would be less of an “on-off switch,” and more of a “dimmer switch” that could move back and forth as circumstances dictated.
As of Monday, all 58 counties in California are to close many indoor activities, including restaurants, wineries, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, museums and card rooms. Bars and breweries that don’t serve meals are also required to close both their indoor and outdoor activities.
Newsom said that 30 counties in the state, including San Joaquin County, remain on the state’s watchlist and are subject to further restrictions, such as closure of gyms and fitness centers, places of worship, indoor protests, personal care services, hair salons and barber shops, offices for nonessential services, and indoor shopping malls.
On Monday, Newsom said that new data on COVID-19 infections — including new daily peaks in reported cases, hospitalization and deaths — required stricter policies on which businesses and public venues could stay open.
“That’s why it’s incumbent on all of us to recognize, soberly, that COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon, until there is a vaccine and/or an effective therapy,” Newsom said, adding that he was optimistic about treatments for COVID-19 that were under development.
“I focus on effective therapies because, on the therapeutic side, the state is really leading the nation, and in many respects the world, in terms of advanced trials that are being done here, and of course as the birthplace of life science and biotech, we’re very proud of our innovation in this space and our capacity to develop partnerships with our universities, our research and development, federal labs and the like, as well as the private sector and its ingenuity.”
He said that the now-standard practices of social distancing and personal hygiene, and the wearing of masks and face coverings especially, would be the best solutions until then.
“What more evidence do you need than nations that have taken the bold leadership of requiring nationwide wearing of masks and face coverings. They are much better off than our country,” he said.
Newsom expressed confidence that, as in the early weeks of the pandemic, strict adherence to state and local stay-at-home orders, combined with social distancing protocols when people do leave their homes, would reduce new cases and new hospitalizations.
“We were able to suppress the spread of this virus. We were going to knock down the growth of this in the beginning. We’re going to do that again. There’s no doubt in my mind, but at the same time, that can’t happen by demanding something of you. I just want to encourage you to do what you know needs to be done in terms of wearing that mask and physical distancing, and to the extent we have to look at sectors of our economy that reinforce a mandate of focus, we’re doing just that.” Newsom said.
Questions at the end of his press conference addressed the status of schools, and Newsom replied that each district in the state would have to consider state and county guidelines when deciding how to proceed.
Tracy Unified School District announced on Friday that it would use a hybrid model, with both classroom and distance learning, but San Joaquin County Public Health Officer Dr. Maggie Park and Superintendent of Schools James Mousalimas issued a joint statement Monday strongly recommending only distance-learning instruction through at least the end of August.
As of Sunday, California had recorded a total of 329,162 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the first known cases in late January. Though the rate of new infections increased daily, it stayed below 2,000 cases per day statewide through most of April and remained stable until the end of May, when new cases spiked at 3,705 on May 30.
New daily infections rose above 4,000 on June 17 and have been above 6,000 on all but one day since June 29. On July 5, new cases reported in a single day rose above 10,000 for the first time (11,529), and the daily total peaked again July 7 (11,694).
Testing has gone up in that time too. The state had been testing fewer than 40,000 people per day up until mid-May, and by mid-June the state was testing more than 60,000 people per day. That was soon up to more than 80,000 people per day. On seven of the 11 days since July 2, the state tested more than 100,000 people per day, with 137,766 people tested on Sunday.
Daily deaths from COVID-19 rose steadily up until April 22, when 115 deaths were reported, which remained the peak for single-day deaths until last week. So far in July, there have been five days when 100 or more deaths were reported in California, including four days in a row from July 6 to 9, with 149 deaths on July 8 the new single-day peak.
The early peak for hospitalizations had been April 7, with 5,792 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients. From the start of May until the third week of June, the number of confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients stayed below 5,000, but that number has been consistently on the rise since mid-June. The state passed 6,000 hospitalizations on June 28 and reached a new peak of confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients in hospitals (7,904) on July 10.
San Joaquin County has recorded 6,988 COVID-19 cases and had seen a substantial decline in reporting of new cases after the initial surge in March and April. The county was recording only three or four new cases for most days during the first week of May, but reports of new daily cases started climbing again at the start of June.
The county reported more than 100 new cases in one day on June 12 (147), and passed 200 cases per day on June 27 (202). There have been more than 200 new cases reported per day on 14 of 16 days since then, including the single-day peak of 383 cases on July 3.
For most of May, the county had fewer than 20 COVID-19 patients in the hospital on any single day, but hospitalizations started to climb in June, and by the end of the month, more than 100 people per day were hospitalized for COVID-19 in the county. That number reached a new peak on Friday with 204 county residents hospitalized.
San Joaquin County has recorded 70 deaths from COVID-19, including 13 people who died last week.