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COVID-19 State Policy Update 06.22.20

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June 22, 2020

Today, Monday, June 22, Governor Newsom provided a live update on COVID-19, as the state and many counties are experiencing an increase in the positivity rate, which is the true measure of whether the virus is spreading, versus an increase in positive tests due to an increase in testing. The positivity rate is the total number of people tested, divided by the total number of positive tests. The Governor began his presentation by stating he was wearing a mask, as he approached the podium, because he is exposed to people he has not been around with regularity. He stated he imposed the new mask mandate, because he and other public health experts are concerned about the increase in the positivity rate and hospitalizations over the past 14 days, and that contact tracing has revealed new cases are the result of community spread, largely through gatherings of families and friends, e.g., birthday and graduation celebrations, and funerals.

Governor Newsom displayed a slide to illustrate how community spread happens so quickly when people do not take precautions through face coverings, social distancing, and hygiene (hand washing). The slide noted, and the Governor emphasized the point, that when people simply exhale, our bodies expel droplets that travel up to 4.5 feet away; when we cough, droplets travel up to 6 feet away (hence the 6-foot social distancing guideline); and when we sneeze, droplets travel up to 26 feet away. “We ask you to wear masks because it works. Wearing masks saves lives---it mitigates risks. Your actions save lives.” 

Governor Newsom introduced a new Public Service Announcement (PSA) that highlights four past California Governors, (Wilson, Davis, Schwarzenegger, and Brown) from different parties coming together to spread the message of the importance of wearing a face coving (view the PSA here). The Governor thanked the four former state leaders for their dedication to California, their collective force to drive an important message home, and for their advice in managing the pandemic. The Governor urged the audience to heed the message and wear face coverings, practice social distancing, and personal hygiene, as he noted, “We are not out of the woods yet.” He stated he has heard people say, “the virus is coming back for a second wave,” and he noted, “this is not a second wave, we are not even through the first wave. The Governor stated that over the past 14 days there have been a total of 46,735 cases, which accounts for 36.5% of all of the state’s COVID—19 cases. He noted that 4,230 cases were identified yesterday, Sunday, June 21, and 4,515 cases were identified on Saturday, June 20—both are record-setting days.

Those who suggest we are out of the woods—those who suggest this is somehow going to disappear—these numbers tell a very different and sobering story.” The Governor implored Californians to follow the new mandate but noted this is up to the counties to enforce, as the state is not directing the counties when they re-open parts of their economy, rather the state is providing the “how” through the published guidelines and the counties have the responsibility for implementing the “when.” 

The Governor presented several slides to update the audience on testing, infection trends, hospitalization trends, system capacity, and PPE distribution.  He noted the testing is hitting all-time high numbers. On Sunday, June 21, 92,000 tests were conducted and on Saturday, June 20 a total of 85,000 tests were conducted and while that is important, he noted, it is NOT as some people think, the reason the numbers of infection are up—it is driven by the positivity rate, which is also watched closely. The Governor stated the state is experiencing a 
slight uptick in cases due to community spreadas the positivity rate has climbed steadily over the past week to 4.8%.” The point, the Governor stated, is that the trend is concerning, as the positivity rate climbed nearly every day last week, which tells experts the virus is spreading again, and the curve could bend upward, which is what we don’t want. 

The Governor introduced Secretary of Health Dr. Mark Ghaly who reiterated the Governor’s points regarding the need to social distance, wear masks, and practice good hygiene by hand washing. He also spoke to a point the Governor raised regarding assisting the counties with reopening their economies and how to balance that with the need to keep the virus in check—once again, the point is it is up to Californians to stop the spread of the virus by adhering to the guidelines. Dr. Ghaly noted there are 11 counties currently receiving “technical assistance from the state to help manage their COVID-19 rates, implementation of their guidelines, and hospital bed management system.” Dr. Ghaly reviewed many of the Governor’s points and also strongly urged Californians to continue to stay at home if they are able, and to adhere to the new mandate to wear a mask outside of their home. 

The Governor returned to the podium and spoke to the state’s healthcare system capacity, noting the state is in good shape, as there are 73,867 hospital beds; 52,745 surge beds; and of that capacity only a small number 3,702 are being used for COVID-19 patients. The point he noted, is to not see a further increase in hospitalizations or ICU admissions, which could happen if people do not heed the warnings and fail to wear face coverings. The state also has more than 11,000 ventilators ready to go, should they be needed, and has distributed 130 million masks to key workplace sectors, including agribusiness, education, transit and healthcare. He noted 199,000 masks are in inventory and they are working on sending more to the field. In addition, the state has 11,000,000 N-95 masks, which are being distributed to our most vulnerable front-line workers—healthcare professionals. He stated he is very proud of the procurement work done by the team to secure the supplies California needs; the partnership with FEMA, and the ability California has had to help other states in need.

The Governor noted just before the press conference, he was on a joint call with several governors from other states and Vice President Mike Pence, and all of the Governors expressed concern about the virus spreading, as they move to re-open segments of their economies but are also concerned about the economic impact on their communities, if they don’t fully re-open their economies. He noted all of the Governors are focused on educating people versus being punitive with their orders and direction to citizens to avoid spreading the virus. 

The Governor spoke to the need to look out for the most vulnerable in our state (seniors and homeless) by getting involved in programs that serve others in need. He spoke about his experience on Friday, June 19, when he was in Sacramento to help prepare meals for Great Plates Delivered, which is the first organization of its kind in the nation partnering local businesses to deliver healthy meals for seniors at risk for COVID-19. Since its launch in April of this year, Great Plates has delivered more than 1.5 million meals and put more than 5,000 people to work (read more here). The Governor stated it is important to make sure we are looking out for our most vulnerable and to realize that at the same time, we are helping ourselves by connecting with others and volunteering to do good work.

The Governor concluded by urging Californians to follow the new mandate—to wear a face covering or mask when they leave their home or when they are outside and unable to be 6 feet or more away from others. He also urged them to not forget hand washing, as it is also helpful in stopping the spread of the disease. He also reminded people to read the guidance documents for each county, including their attestations and surge planning. He noted the www.COVID-19.ca.gov website has all of the guidance documents for each county and people are able to track their county’s progress and how they are managing the virus (read more about county guidelines here). The Governor’s mask mandate is also included in the current guidelines (read more here).

Q&A

The questions largely focused on two topics, whether the Governor was concerned that the increase in cases would lead to a shut-down of California’s economy again and the state budget.

Regarding a possible second shut-down of the economy, the Governor was clear, the state has handed the responsibility for managing the COVID-19 virus to the counties, as they have the ability, at the local level, to know what their county needs. He has noted numerous times there are many counties in California and all have varying needs and situations, which call for customization of their guidance, attestations, and management of their health care system. He noted the state depends on local authorities to enforce the mask mandate, but noted, “this is not about being punitive—it is about educating people to realize their actions save livesTechnical assistance is foundational to our work with the counties and we will continue to work together to manage this pandemic.”

Regarding the state budget, reporters wanted details regarding funding for education, cuts to safety net programs, and the trigger dates for additional cuts, if the federal government does not come through with funding for the state. The Governor stated details are forthcoming on the state budget. He did say he was pleased with the hard work and dedication of the legislative leadership, including the Speaker, Pro Tempore, advocacy groups, and the budget chairs, as he believed this budget, while painful, will work. He noted he is pleased there are provisions to prevent teacher layoffs. He stated he believes the federal government needs to assist states not only because there are revenue shortfalls, but also because of the dramatic increase in costs to the state for managing this pandemic. With that the Governor concluded his remarks. (Read more on the state budget here). 

Key milestones – COVID-19 numbers – as of today (6.22.20)

  • 5,515 deaths, up by 70 overnight or +0.4%. 
  • 178,054 positive cases-up by +2.4%, with 46,735 new cases over the past 14 days.  
  • The positivity rate, which has increased daily from the stable rate of 4.0%, is rose again to 4.8%.
  • 3,411,686 tests conducted. 92,430 new tests reported (a record) a 2.8% increase.
    • Latinos continue to have the highest percentage of positive cases at 56.6%; Caucasians 17.3%; Asians 7.2%, and Blacks 4.5%.
  • Hospitalizations increased by 128 to 3,702, up by 3.6%.
  • The majority of hospitalizations are in LA County 1,515, followed by Orange County 361; Riverside 299; San Diego County at 277; San Bernardino 270; Kern 108; Imperial 95; San Joaquin 81; Alameda 76; Fresno 73; Stanislaus 70.
  • ICU – 1,199 increased by 36 or up by 3.1%.