COVID-19 State Policy Update 07.20.20

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Today, Monday, July 20, 2020Governor Newsom provided an update on the COVID-19 pandemic and status of the current orders regarding business operations in the state. Governor Newsom began by stating, “Our decisions not our conditions will determine our fate and future. Our decisions will determine how quickly our children will go back to school. Our decisions will determine what kind of activities we will get to, once again, enjoy with our friends and family, and of course, it is our personal decisions and the sum total of our decisions that will determine how quickly our business sector can re-open with some semblance of the way things used to be.” He reminded the audience that their behaviors can significantly slow the transmission of the virus. He noted wearing face masks, keeping social distance, washing hands often, avoiding mixing with people outside of your household, and moving activities outdoors, when possible. 

The Governor posted a slide to illustrate how virus transmission can be sped up or slowed by our activities. One unprotected person will infect 2.5 people within 5 days, which will lead to 400 people being infected within 30 days. If one person has 50% less exposure, that’s likely to lead to infecting 1.25 people within 5 days, which will lead to 18 people being infected within 30 days. If one person’s exposure is reduced by 75%, they are likely to spread the virus to .25 people within 5 days, which will likely lead to 2.5 people being infected within 30 days. The point, he noted, is “our actions will dictate our future. We determine the direction of transmission trends in our state.”

The Governor reminded the audience of the current orders, which require people to wear masks or face coverings when outside their homes and when unable to maintain six feet physical distance (read more here). He then posted a slide listing the current orders that apply to businesses and noted there may have been some confusion regarding hair salons and barbershops. Currently, all bars, breweries and pub must close all indoor and outdoor operations. Restaurants statewide must cease all indoor dining and switch to outdoor or take-out dining. Gyms, Places of worship, and personal care providers (such as salons and barbershops) may operate outdoors (read more about the various orders here).

The Governor stated, “It was our intention to provide for hair salons and barbershops to have outdoor delivery of services, but it proved to be more challenging than it appeared. New guidelines are available on the COVID-19 websiteThere were issues regarding chemicals, perms, and shampoos, which complicated the guidelines, as they related to local ordinances.” He noted they will continue to look for feedback from the industry for further modifications, if needed.

The Numbers

The Governor then presented data regarding California’s trends, which are listed below under Key Milestones and Trends. As he moved through the report on trends, he noted in some areas, such as the state’s positivity rating, the news is encouraging, as the positivity rate is stable at 7.4%. He reminded the audience that last week the positivity rate was 7.9% up from 4.9% just a few weeks earlier. He noted officials are monitoring the positivity rate trends carefully, as there is hope the modified orders put into place earlier this month might begin to show progress in slowing the spread of the virus. He noted that no one on the team is satisfied with a 7.4% positivity rate, but it’s better than 7.9% and if it continues to drop, it’s an encouraging sign. He closed on this point, by reminding the audience the numbers in any category can change quickly. 

When it comes to hospitalizations, they are down 16% over a 14-day period, which is a significant slowing in the growth rate. In other words, while hospitalizations continue to grow on a daily basis, the growth rate is slowing. He reminded the audience that as they put the new orders in place earlier this month, the growth rate over 14 days was an alarming 50%. There is also good news in the ICU growth rate, as it has gone from 39% over 14 days to 20% last week and 12% this week, so the growth rate is slowing, which is good news. 

He went on to provide data on the death rate, noting over the weekend, on Saturday the virus took 90 lives and on Sunday it took nine. He reminded the audience any life lost to this virus is tragic. More than 7,500 people have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic started. The Governor noted it’s too early to tell if the lower number is a trend and reminded the audience the numbers can and do change quickly. 

Resources and Testing

One area of concern is the distribution of resources, as the Governor noted in a previous briefing, hospitals are not evenly distributed around the state, so while a slower growth rate is good news from a statewide data point of view, if you look closely at the individual counties, it reveals the challenges in managing resources. The Governor offered a couple of examples—Placer County only has 18% of their ICU beds available. In San Benito County, there are no ICU beds available. The Governor noted that state officials are working closely with those and the other counties currently on the Monitoring List and are “laser focused on helping them manage the issues that keep them on the List.” Over the weekend, San Francisco County was added, which now means 33 of the state’s 58 counties are on the Monitoring List, which the Governor noted represents the vast majority of the state’s population.

The Governor went on discuss human capital and staffing at hospitals and congregant care facilities. He noted the upward trends of the virus takes a toll on healthcare providers and they need a break. He expressed his appreciation to the Vice President for sending 190 medical professionals to help alleviate the stress on staffing in a number of our counties. He reminded the audience that the growing numbers of infected people, the hospitalizations, and deaths, take their toll on healthcare professionals on the front lines. “They are exhausted and need a break from the stress of working so long and so hard to beat this virus. This is also an area where you can have an impact. By wearing a mask, washing your hands often, maintaining social distance, and minimizing the number of people you come into contact with outside your home, you can help reverse the trends and take some of the burden off of our healthcare system.”  

The Governor also discussed testing trends and noted state officials are continuing to increase testing rates, especially in rural areas. He briefly reiterated the new testing protocols with the tiered system and the work to shift some of the testing through physicians and have health plans cover the cost of testing as a benefit for insureds. He acknowledged there are still some challenges to overcome, such as testing deserts and turnaround times for results, which has grown into a larger issue.

He concluded his briefing by stating, “hospitalizations and ICU admissions continue to be cause for concern, which is why we are asking people to double down on everything we are doing, so we can get back to work and school in traditional ways, not the modified ways we have been using or with distance learning. Please wear a mask, wash your hands, keep six feet or more away from others, and avoid mixing with people outside of your home. Again, it is our actions and our decisions that will determine our fate and future.”

Q&A 

The first question was not regarding COVID-19 but focused on the Trump administration sending troops to cities still contending with protests and riots. The reporter asked how the Governor would respond if the President sent troops to California. The Governor responded he would not allow it.  Another question focused on the Trump administration and NY Times claim that Vice President Pence allegedly informed Governor Newsom that help would be provided to California, if the Governor personally requested help from the President and then publicly thanked him for any assistance provided. The Governor stated the report was inaccurate and no such requirement has ever been discussed. He noted there needs to be a national strategy to combat the virus.  

A number of questions focused on schools and whether the Governor thinks schools can open in a distance learning setting and then shift to in-class learning without disrupting the learning process; also, whether consideration has been given allowing classes to meet outdoors, like the businesses expanding to outdoor service. The Governor stated right now there is no consideration for conducting outdoor learning, but they are working with health officials on options and doing everything they can to help schools open, which he noted hinges on the infection rate.

Another question focused on testing issues, specifically the delayed turnaround for results, upwards of 13 days in some areas. The Governor stated that nationally the time delays vary and are higher than they want, as timeliness is critical in some areas, such as congregant settings, such as nursing homes and jails and prisons. Dr. Ghaly stepped in to note they are working on what he called matchmaking, which is getting tests to labs in the area where it was collected and adding labs so the state can reduce the turnaround times. Pool testing is also being considered.

Another question focused on models and a statement by Dr. Ghaly last week that the models the state used did not assume the high infection rates, such as those the state is experiencing. The reporter wanted to know where the responsibility lies for that error. The Governor said the process is dynamic, and the state was successful in extending the disease curve, which gave officials confidence. He noted models are iterative and change throughout their use. He also reminded the reporter there have been a number of models and the state was the first to open its models to allow others to work with the data and possibly make suggestions for improvement. He concluded by stating he does not point fingers—never has—and never will. 

The next question focused on contact tracers and the fact that some counties reopened their local economy before they met the requirement for 15 contact tracers for every 100,000 residents. The reporter asked why that was allowed and if the Governor thought allowing it contributed to our current situation. The Governor explained that counties were required to attest to the fact that they had the 15 contact tracers per 100,000 residents or that they had a plan to reach that number and articulate that plan in their attestation. 

The final question focused on legislation and whether he has an appetite for signing bills that are not COVID-19 related. The Governor noted his team and the Legislature have taken on and addressed many issues beyond COVID-19, including getting PG&E out of bankruptcy, preparing for wildfire season, addressing the state’s $54 billion-dollar deficit, and taking on the homeless crisis. He noted he believes there is great capacity to address a myriad of issues and he looks forward to working with the Legislature and signing bills to address the issues the state is facing.  

The Governor concluded by reminding everyone, once again, to do all they can to stop the spread of the virus.

New orders for counties on the Monitoring List

As of July 17, new guidance has been provided for a number of the business sectors subject to the new orders. Below under Navigating the COVID-19 Site, you will find links to updated guidance for each sector.

For the 33 counties on the Monitoring list, the following sectors must close all indoor and outdoor operations, while the county is on the Monitoring List. 

  • Fitness Centers and gyms (read more here)
  • Worship services (read more here)
  • Offices for non-critical staff (read more here)
  • Personal services, including salons, barber shops, and nail salons (read more here
  • Indoor protests
  • Indoor shopping malls (read more here

The Latest on the Monitoring List

After three consecutive days on the Monitoring List, counties are subject to the new order (for at least three weeks), which includes ceasing all indoor dining in restaurants, closing bars, and no alcoholic beverages may be sold without an accompanying meal (read more about monitored counties here); (find the Monitoring List here). 

The Guide for Schools is published on the Department of Public Health website (read more here). On July 17, 2020, updated guidance was released for childcare, day camps, and schools (read more here). 

Wildfire evacuation protocols

New protocols and plans to keep fire crews and the public safe from COVID-19 during wildfire season and community evacuations (Read more here). 

Navigating the COVID-19 Dashboard
The Governor is encouraging Californians to follow their county’s progress via the State’s Dashboard, which provides COVID-19 data updates daily (find statewide and county data here). Once in a Dashboard report, you may click on individual counties (on the right column) to see county-specific testing and outcome data or hospitalization rates in each county (click here for case statistics); (click herefor hospitalization and ICU data).

Key milestones and trends – COVID-19 numbers – as of today (7.20.20)

The Governor noted the most important measures of the trajectory of the virus are the Positivity rate and the 7-day average; in some cases, only the 14-day average is available. 

  • 7,694 deaths, up by 9 overnight or +0.1%; 14-day total 1,357 up 21.4% 
  • 391,538 positive cases - up by 6,846 or +1.8%; 14-day total 119,864 up by 44.1%. 
  • The state’s positivity rate remains stable; the 7-day positivity rate is 7.2%; the 14-day positivity rate is also 7.4%. 
  • 6,414,321 tests conducted; 1-day total 127,489; 14-day up 1,620,968 or 33.8%.
    • Latinos continue to have the highest percentage of positive cases at 55%; Caucasians 18%; Asians 6%, and Blacks 4%.
  • Hospitalizations for COVID positive is 6,921 up by 22 or 0.3%; 14-day rolling average is 6,527. Suspected patients with COVID-19 is 1498, down by 1 or 
    + 0.1%; 14-day rolling average is 1,559.
  • The majority of hospitalizations are in LA County 2,218; followed by Orange County 666; San Bernardino 613; Riverside 507; San Diego 390; Fresno 269; Kern 248; San Joaquin 210; Stanislaus 209; Sacramento 204; Alameda 159; Santa Clara 157.
  • ICU – COVID positive patients in ICU is 1,943 up by 22 or 1.1%; the 14-day rolling average is 1,849. Number of suspected COVID-19 in ICU is 214 up by 2. Available beds statewide is 4,057.
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