California enters the three-day weekend of July 4th in exactly the position it has been fighting for for more than three months.
The number of coronavirus cases is increasing rapidly, and the state is setting two records for new daily cases this week. Coronavirus patient admissions have increased 56% in the past two weeks. And the state recorded its second deadliest day since the pandemic began earlier this week.
“We are in a moment of disruption,” said George Rutherford, epidemiologist and infectious disease expert at UC San Francisco. “We always knew we’d have to tolerate a small transfer when things open up again, but that’s far more than we expected.”
The fear of crowds and gatherings during the holidays could always make the critical situation of the state worse. State and local officials along the California coast – from the Los Angeles and Ventura counties to Pebble Beach near Carmel and throughout Monterey County – rushed to closed beaches and parking lots. Even Orange County officials who had previously refused to close their beaches in the pandemic and unsuccessfully asked for a judge to order Governor Newsom to temporarily close them in late April gave a handful of beach and parking closures out for the weekend.
The University of Southern California announced on Thursday that it would no longer welcome students for personal courses on campus for the fall semester. This overturned an earlier decision to bring students back for a hybrid model for personal and digital learning. And Imperial County, currently the worst in California, reestablished its home stay order and closed all nonessential businesses as cases continue to increase.
During a press conference on Thursday, Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled a so-called “big public awareness campaign,” calling on Californians to comply with the order he made two weeks ago that Californians should wear face covers in most public places.
He noted the increase in hospital admissions and the frequency of coronavirus testing, which had positive results – a number that had increased from 4.6% to 6.9% in the past week – and pleaded with the Californians, “to keep in mind that one of these statistics could be you ”.
“If you think this can’t affect you because it hasn’t influenced you yet, I hope to stop you,” Newsom said.
Even in the Bay Area, the region that was the first in the nation to issue home stay orders and where hospitalizations, cases and deaths are far below those in Southern California, officials raised the alarm on Thursday.
Dr. Grant Colfax, director of public health in San Francisco, said The increasing number of cases in the city in recent weeks has been alarming and warned that “early signs of an increase” could be seen.
“It is really important that people take the steps that we know are slowing the spread of COVID-19: this means wearing face covers, distancing yourself socially, taking good hygiene measures, and if possible at home stay, “said Colfax.
Annual July 4th parades, celebrations, and firework shows in the Bay Area, including the July 4 waterfront celebration that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to San Francisco each year, have been canceled. Instead, the congregations have moved on to virtual celebrations in cities like Milpitas and Redwood City, a “veranda parade” in Fremont, and a “10 o’clock cheer” in Pleasant Hill.
Santa Cruz County, which typically has a large increase in visitors coming together for a day at the beach, cookouts and campfire meetings, encouraged residents and members of the neighboring community to celebrate from home and found that a recent increase in infections there “from gatherings of friends or families. “
“The more we get together, the more COVID-19 spreads,” said Dr. Gail Newel, Santa Cruz County Health Officer, in a statement. “Let us remember our elders and those who are prone to serious illnesses.”
However, just as other areas of the state took further precautionary measures, the long-restrictive Santa Clara County announced some reopening.
As of July 13, or when the state gives the green light – whichever comes later – gyms, hairdressing salons and nail salons with social distance and mask requirements can be reopened, the district officials announced on Thursday. Groups of up to 20 people can gather indoors, while groups of up to 60 people can gather outdoors.
Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Health Officer, said the changes confirmed that the county offers protection longer than expected and focuses on a “risk mitigation” model rather than a flat rate home stay order. Although the county had the lowest per capita rate of all cases in an urban area, the number of cases increased.
“We are at a turning point,” said Cody. “It is crystal clear that COVID-19 will be with us for a long time. So we have to adapt to a new way of life that protects us all and enables us to do some of the things we miss, appreciate and find most useful. “
Rutherford, the epidemiologist at UC San Francisco, said he was surprised to see the county move forward after being put on a “watch list” by the state.
“Things opened too early in Southern California and Central Valley and we saw the consequences,” he said. “It’s time to be more careful.”
The authors Fiona Kelliher, Evan Webeck and Kerry Crowley contributed to this story.