California: Rising COVID-19 numbers leading state to toggle back reopenings, increase enforcement

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday said the state is pausing the reopening “dimmer switch” in a number of counties facing alarming coronavirus spikes, as well as increasing enforcement of the state’s health orders.

During his Monday address on the state’s response to the pandemic, Newsom noted that he has frequently said there was a possibility that changing data might force officials to step back from phased reopening in parts of the state showing a rise in case numbers.

The state’s positivity rate over the past two weeks remained higher than officials would like, trending slightly upwards to 5.5 percent in the last 14 days. Disturbingly, within the past seven days, California’s positivity rate increased to 5.9 percent.

Newsom said there was a 45 percent increase in positive tests, and a 43 percent increase in hospitalizations in the last two weeks. Over the last three days, Newsom said that new positive test numbers remained high, with 5,932 new cases on Friday, 4,810 new cases on Saturday and 5,307 new cases on Sunday.

However, despite the rising numbers, Newsom noted that the state still has sufficient hospital bed and ICU capacity.

Newsom said that the rising case numbers, the trend line for positivity rate, and other data were what led state officials to announce the closure of bars in seven counties on Sunday, an order that included recommendations for eight additional counties to also roll back reopening and shut down bars.

The counties under the mandatory bar closure order were: Los Angeles, Fresno, San Joaquin, Kings, Kern, Imperial and Tulare.

State officials asked eight other counties — Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Sacramento, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Stanislaus — to issue local health orders closing bars.

Newsom said Solano, Merced, Orange and Glenn counties have all been added to the state’s targeted engagement list, which is now up to 19 counties. Those 19 counties account for 72 percent of the state’s total population.

Newsom noted that, with the increasing number of cases, the state would be stepping up enforcement of health orders. He called on business leaders to take steps to protect both their workers and their customers by requiring face coverings per the state’s mandatory face mask rule for anyone in public.

“There are many mechanisms with which you can enforce. At the state level, there are some tools. At the local level, there are even more tools” Newsom explained.

The governor said that the budget he would be signing later Monday would include stipulations for the $2.5 billion of COVID-19 related funding earmarked for counties that would require certification of the enforcement of county health orders.

Newsom reiterated that the enforcement should not be putative, but that officials should work with residents and businesses to meet their needs.