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COVID-19 State Policy Update 06.25.20

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June 25, 2020

Today, Thursday, June 25, Governor Newsom provided an update on the COVID-19 pandemic announcing the release of the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, models, and inviting the healthcare community and citizen scientists and coders to work with the data and models and participate in improving existing tools and developing new tools to help the state and the public through the pandemic (read more here). The Governor also issued a proclamation declaring a budget emergency (read more here). It is an important step in allowing the state to draw from its rainy day fund to help California continue to meet the COVID-19 crisis, which led to the state’s budget shortfall of more than $54 billion (read the proclamation here). 

The Governor began his presentation with a recap of the numbers and slides he presented yesterday and reiterating his concern for rising infection, hospitalization, and the positivity rate, as only the actions of average Californians can bring down the rates. The Governor reminded the audience the COVID-19 models originally produced in March predicted high infection rates, a hospital system overwhelmed with patients, and many deaths, if the state did not take dramatic and swift action to contain the spread of the virus. He noted the success of the stay-at-home order in containing the virus and protecting many Californians, especially those most vulnerable, such as seniors and those living in congregant facilities. 

The Governor noted that while we are not out of the woods yet, as we are still in the first wave of the virus, there is still an opportunity to keep the virus under control and not reverse the hard work done to flatten the infection curve so many weeks ago. The next level of important work, he stated, is focused on contact tracing and identifying those who are symptomatic, asymptomatic, and pre-symptomatic and then isolating and quarantining them, also identifying those people they have come into contact with through contact tracing, so we may stop the community spread of the virus. He reviewed the numbers reported today (see the end of this update for the latest data). Nationally, he noted, we are seeing spikes in cases again. Some states have hospitalization and ICU rates that have doubled in just days. 

This is not the time to forget the need to socially distance, wear a mask and wash your hands, stay inside if you are vulnerable, and quarantine if you have been in contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive or been among cohorts that are new to you or you have not been around for some time. Use common sense to stop the spread of the virus. The actions you take will save lives.”

Models

The Governor moved on to the topic of models, noting they play an important role in decision making for state and local officials and drive guidance and variance development. He noted there are many different models considered by experts and all have their strong points and their shortcomings. He stated his purpose today was to provide a framework for Californians to understand the modeling process and is extending an invitation to help simplify them. 

Models guide actions—they are not determinative of our future. The future is not something we experience, it’s not up to fate. We can manifest our future. It’s not something in front of us, it’s something inside of us. Often, it’s decisions, not conditions that determine our future.” 

The Governor compared the initial models that illustrated what the virus spread would look like if we took no action—if California just sat back, went about our daily routines and did not alter our behaviors. Models allowed us to develop interventions to protect and promote a different outcome—to control the curve of the virus and stop the deadly spread.  He noted the state succeeded in bending the curve and actually flattening it by mitigating the risk and taking appropriate action to protect ourselves. 

The Governor announced the state is opening up its models to citizen scientists, the healthcare community, and those who love data or are coders and want to “play with the data and see it from different perspectives.” This he stated is all about a deep dive into transparency and helping people understand there is no mystery behind the models and no hidden agenda—it is an open source platform made to be played with and manipulated to see what might be done. He invited people to go to the CalCAT site (here) where anyone who wants to may join in and work with the various data sets and models. As he noted, this is about allowing people to participate and help build the state’s modeling capacity. “We recognize there is limitless talent and expertise across this state and we invite those interested in participating to join us. The hope is to make models more meaningful and purposeful—to promote a different outcome by promoting a different consciousness, ultimately promoting a different behavior.” 

The Governor noted some people come from a different ideology, some want to improve the system, others may have a malicious angle, but he invited all comers to test and challenge the models, the data, the system and stated he believes the state has a responsibility to advance the value of testing and challenging. With that he introduced Dr. Ghaly who covered three specific slides to explain the models.

Dr. Ghaly’s presentation began with a slide titled “Nowcasting,” which he described as a bit like the morning weather report, as it tells us what is happening now, and in the case of COVID-19 the Nowcast model guided immediate decision making at the state and local level to manage resources and messaging.

The second slide titled “Forecasting,” he explained takes the current situation, current actions, and behaviors and predicts what will happen in the next few weeks. He noted it also helps guide how we focus and reinforce messaging and actions the Governor might take. 

The CalCAT tool brings together the models. He noted, as did the Governor, all models have strengths and weaknesses, which is why the state uses a wide variety of models from a wide variety of sources. He noted models are simply tools to help guide decisions.

The third slide allows officials to look at various scenarios to predict how choices made today might impact the future. These predictive models use a combination of data and decisions to predict the future. 

The Governor returned to the podium to reiterate a couple of Dr. Ghaly’s points about models and again extend the invitation to those who are interested in working with the data and to see if they might be able to simplify them, come up with a new way to look at the model, or just enjoy playing with the data. The Governor transitioned to talking, once again, practice common sense, be responsible, and take seriously the need to wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands regularly, avoid crowds, stay at home if you are able, and do all you can to stop the spread of the virus. 

He then took up the topic of the Walt Disney Company announcing today they are postponing the re-opening of their California theme parks, due to California not progressing with Phase 3 guidelines, due to the higher positivity rate and infection rate. The Governor lauded the company for “doing the right thing and taking seriously this moment, as we work to reverse upward trend lines.” He noted the decisions we make can have a profound impact on the spread of this virus and we must remember these upward trends are a warning that some Californians are not taking the mandate of wearing a mask seriously or may simply believe the virus is no longer a concern, but he assured the audience the state is still facing a virulent and deadly virus, which requires us to take our role of protecting everyone seriously. 

He again urged Californians to get familiar with the state’s official COVID-19 website at www.COVID-19.ca.gov. The 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).

He concluded by stating, “Answer the call. Use common sense. Take the call if a contact tracer calls you to talk about your activity and possible exposure. The call is confidential, your health and personal information is protected, and we can only contain this virus if everyone takes it seriously. This moment calls for clarity and conviction.” 

Q&A

Once again, the majority of the questions from media focused on the rising infection, positivity, and hospitalization rates and whether the Governor thought the state should rollback or apply the dimmer switch to the re-opening of the economy because of the rising rates. The Governor responded he believes if we continue to test at record rates and people follow the mask mandate, there is no need to act at the state level. He reiterated the point he made during his presentation that the counties that are out of compliance and struggling to comply are on the watch list and receiving technical assistance from the state to get their infection and testing rates to within compliance. He noted all the counties are participating in a spirit of collaboration and cooperation and he expects that to continue. He urged people to get tested and, in fact, be tested more than once if their activity or exposure indicated that was necessary. He noted the state has gone to great lengths to train contact tracers to add 10,000 to the workforce, to identify state employees who may be trained as contact tracers, and he noted the partnership with UCSF and UCLA to develop the cohort training is working and they expect to meet the training deadline soon. He also noted the partnership with Accenture, Salesforce, and Amazon to build the content platform. He noted 36 states are on board and more are coming close to onboarding. He concluded his response with the following statement, “if there is evidence, we need to roll back the Phases or hit the dimmer switch, we will do so to keep the protect public health.” 

Another question posed the concept of imposing fines, as some local officials are considering and if the Governor thought this was a good idea. He responded he believed local officials are best to decide what is needed, as they have the ability to direct their local law enforcement agencies, but again, he hoped things don’t need to get to punitive. He believes an open hand and open heart are more effective. “But make no mistake, if we need to roll back our phased re-opening and impose a stay-at-home order because our hospitalization and ICU beds are reaching a critical capacity load, we will do so.”

Another question focused on budget protection for paid family leave, which the California Chamber has called a “job killer” and has not had Legislative support in the past. The Governor responded he believes if we are going to ask employees to be honest about the possible COVID-19 exposure and possibly need to be quarantined and isolated, then we must not penalize them financially for doing the right thing. The Governor gave a lengthy explanation about his philosophy of providing for families to be able to care for their family members and helping families not have to make hard choices, as often those hard choices regarding care for loved ones actually cost the state and taxpayers more money in the long run. 

Finally, the Governor was asked if he is alarmed by the rates of COVID-19 in Arizona and if he is considering imposing a self-quarantine for people who come from hot-spot states. He responded, California is working to assist Arizona and recently sent 14 million masks to the state to help with their supplies. Regarding quarantine, he noted everyone is responsible to self-quarantine if they are traveling from one state to another or even one county to another in some cases.

He concluded by appealing to the audience to heed the warnings that we are not out of the woods yet and the only way to contain the virus is to wear a mask, wash your hands, maintain social distance, etc. 

Key milestones – COVID-19 numbers – as of today (6.25.20)

  • 5,733 deaths, up by 101 overnight or +1.0%; 14-day total up 852 or 17.5%
  • 195,571 positive cases-up by +2.8%; 14-day total is 56,290 or up 40.4%
  • The 7-day positivity rate is 5.6%; the 14-day positivity rate is 5.1%
  • 3,694,345 tests conducted. One-day total 101,446, up 2.8%
    • Latinos continue to have the highest percentage of positive cases at 57%; Caucasians 17%; Asians 7%, and Blacks 5%.
  • Hospitalizations 4,240, up by 145 overnight or 3.5%; the 14-day rolling average is 3,515.  
  • The majority of hospitalizations are in LA County 1,676, followed by Orange County 437; San Diego 333; San Bernardino 331; Riverside 312; Kern 118; Fresno 93; Alameda 89; San Joaquin 89; Stanislaus 85; Imperial 82.
  • ICU – 1,306 up by 38 overnight or 3.0%; 14-day rolling average of 1, 148