Newsom warns of increased spread of COVID-19 in Southern California
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday said the state's positivity rate for coronavirus cases has dropped to 2.8% over a two-week average, but he offered a word of caution for counties in Southern California, where some data around the spread of the virus show increased transmission.
Newsom said the "R-effective" rate, or the rate that measures how fast the virus is spreading, has been going up in Southern California based on two groupings of counties in the region. The rate measures the average of how many people are likely to get sick from one infected person, with a rate of one or higher indicating a faster spread.
"While it's true we have seen a three-fold decrease in the total number of cases since our peak mid-July, we are seeing early signs that those decreases are beginning to slow down,” he said.
Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Luis Obisbo and Kern counties collectively have an "R-effective" rate of 1.02. Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, San Diego and Imperial counties collectively have an "R-effective" rate of 0.97.
The rate also snuck up to 0.95 in the Bay Area, Newsom said. He called the recent analysis of data "some concerns and points of optimism, all mixed into one."
Statewide, there have been 805,263 positive cases of coronavirus and 15,608 virus-related deaths.
Newsom on Monday urged continued vigilance in the form of wearing masks, physical distancing, frequent hand-washing and minimizing mixing with people from other households. Following such protocols, he said, will allow businesses and schools to reopen faster.
California currently has 25 counties in the purple tier, or the most restrictive level of the state's color-coded, four-tier reopening framework, comprising counties with the most significant amount of spread. There are 19 counties in the red tier, 11 in the orange tier and three in the yellow tier, indicating the highest level of allowable business activity.
Newsom said California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly is expected to announce more counties progressing, including some moving into the yellow tier, on Tuesday for his weekly update.
Will the Inland Empire move tiers?
Riverside County is slated to remain in the red tier this week, while San Bernardino County has the potential to join its neighbor in that phase of reopening.
The red tier allows movie theaters, museums, zoos, aquariums, churches, fitness centers and indoor dining restaurants to open at partial capacity.
In determining whether a county can move to the next phase, the state looks at two metrics: positivity rate and case rate.
San Bernardino County remained in the purple tier last week, which is the lowest level of the state's reopening framework and calls for stricter rules. However, its positivity rate hit 5.7% last week and the county found six coronavirus-positive patients per 100,000 residents, but the state adjusted that figure up to 6.7. Under its new system, the state health department adjusts counties' case rates based on whether they're conducting more than or fewer than the state's average number of tests.
Those metrics fall within the red tier, which means San Bernardino County could progress on Tuesday if its numbers remained stable over the past seven days.
Riverside County must stay in the red tier for at least three weeks before moving to the orange tier, which allows businesses to expand their occupancy.
Riverside County's positivity rate hit 5.8% last week and the county saw 5.8 cases per 100,000 residents last week, though the state adjusted that figure up to 6.7.
To move to the orange tier, Riverside County would need to document fewer than four new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents on a rolling seven-day average, and report a positivity testing rate between 2% to 4.9% for two full weeks.
Riverside County health officials on Monday reported 754 new COVID-19 cases and 17 additional virus-related deaths since Friday. There have now been 58,178 confirmed cases and 1,189 virus-related deaths in Riverside County.
San Bernardino County health officials on Monday reported 92 new coronavirus cases and no additional virus-related deaths, bringing the county’s case total to 54,482 cases and 925 deaths.
Newsom gets flu shot to urge vaccination
Newsom's warnings about increased transmission echoed previously raised concerns from Ghaly, who said last week that a rise in cases appears to be attributable to gathering and activities around the Labor Day holiday.
Other factors could include recent reopening of businesses and massive wildfires that forced evacuations and millions to change their routines because of unhealthy air.
One short-term forecast sees an 89% increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations from the current 2,578 — the lowest figure since early April — to just under 5,000 by Oct. 25, Ghaly said.
The continued monitoring of COVID-19 cases comes as the state tries to ward off a "twindemic" with the upcoming flu season. Newsom urged people to get a flu shot to protect themselves and others.
The governor briefly stepped away from the lectern during the press conference Monday to get his own flu shot, as an opportunity to demonstrate the "power and potency" of the vaccine. He rolled up his Cal Fire t-shirt sleeve and joked about his biceps as he got the shot from a masked and gloved health care professional.
People wearing masks and physical distancing also helps prevent transmission of the flu, not just coronavirus, Newsom said.
Project Homekey awards $137M across state
Newsom also announced a third round of funding for Project Homekey, the state's long-term effort to address homelessness in California. This week's awards total $137 million for 19 projects comprising 938 units in 15 jurisdictions.
"This is not necessarily new construction," Newsom said Monday. "This is about innovation, adaptation."
Projects span cities and counties across California, including:
- Alameda: permanent supportive housing
- Del Norte County: motel conversion
- Humboldt: motel conversion to supportive housing units
- Lake County: interim housing with exits to permanent housing
- Los Angeles: five projects totaling 269 units
- Long Beach: 100 units
- Mariposa County: seniors and individuals with disability
- Santa Barbara: office conversion to permanent housing with wraparound services
- Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians: multi-family residential property acquisition
- Stockton: motel conversion
- Sutter: move-in ready hotel
- Tehama County: interim housing with job training
- Tulare County: shelter conversion to permanent supportive housing
The third round of funding is in addition to the $450 million that the state has already awarded for more than 3,300 units.
Palm Springs:State awards $4.25M for Ivy Palm project
Newsom said Monday that the state also plans to invest an additional $200 million in Project Homekey after officials found "unallocated" COVID-19-related money. This will allow the state to "get close" to clearing the waitlist for projects that were submitted, potentially more than 20 additional projects, pending approval from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.
"You're seeing innovation in every part of the state," Newsom added. "You're seeing support in parts of the state that haven't received support from the state of California in the past to invest and partner with local counties and local ... jurisdictions of all stripes."
Santa Ana winds could worsen wildfires
Newsom also gave an update on the spread of wildfires in the state, as California experiences a record-breaking year even before peak fire season hits.
So far this year, California has seen 8,136 fires that have burned more than 3.7 million acres, compared to 5,487 fires that burned 157,000 acres in total in 2019. That's roughly 23.5 times as many acres burned so far, as compared to last year.
There have been 26 fatalities and more than 7,100 structures known to be destroyed in connection to 2020's wildfires so far, Newsom said.
Newsom added there are more than 18,000 firefighting personnel battling the wildfires, with progress being made on some of the largest complexes in the state.
The Creek Fire in the Fresno and Madera area is at 39% containment and 306,000 acres but remains a "stubborn fire" that persists because of millions of dead trees and historic drought conditions in the region.
But with Santa Ana winds forecasted to come through Southern California and dry, hot weather, Newsom said the state is monitoring conditions.
"We are maintaining our vigilance, and that remains a top area of focus in this state," he said.
California fire tracker:Map traces current blazes burning across state in real-time
Destroyed homes, hotel stays:California wildfire evacuees find lives in limbo
Coachella Valley: Cases so far
Officials on Monday reported 87 new cases and four additional deaths in the Coachella Valley. Here's the city and community breakdown, with the numbers in parentheses showing increases over the weekend:
- Cathedral City: 1,918 cases (+8), 32 deaths and 1,839 recoveries
- Coachella: 2,671 cases (+10), 27 deaths and 2,579 recoveries
- Desert Hot Springs: 1,128 cases (+11), 27 deaths (+1) and 1,057 recoveries
- Indian Wells: 46 cases, 3 deaths and 42 recoveries
- Indio: 3,677 cases (+10), 73 deaths (+1) and 3,495 recoveries
- La Quinta: 802 cases (+9), 19 deaths and 754 recoveries
- Palm Desert: 1,028 cases (+7), 56 deaths (+1) and 935 recoveries
- Palm Springs: 1,056 cases (+6), 52 deaths (+1) and 973 recoveries
- Rancho Mirage: 243 cases (+6), 23 deaths and 210 recoveries
- Unincorporated communities: Bermuda Dunes: 136 cases (+1), 3 deaths and 127 recoveries; Desert Edge: 68 cases (+2), 5 deaths and 56 recoveries; Desert Palms: 45 cases (+2), 3 deaths and 40 recoveries; Garnet: 219 cases (+1), 4 deaths and 212 recoveries; Mecca: 451 cases (+5), 9 deaths and 420 recoveries; North Shore: 135 cases (+6), 1 death and 124 recoveries; Oasis: 332 cases, 4 deaths and 321 recoveries; Sky Valley: 49 cases, 2 deaths and 44 recoveries; Thermal: 183 cases (+2), 0 deaths and 172 recoveries; Thousand Palms: 227 cases (+1), 0 deaths and 223 recoveries; Vista Santa Rosa: 99 cases, 1 death and 90 recoveries
- California: 805,263 cases (+2,955) and 15,608 deaths (+21)
This story includes prior reporting from The Associated Press. Desert Sun intern Laine Henry contributed to this report. Melissa Daniels covers economic development, hospitality and local business in the Coachella Valley. She can be reached at (760)-567-8458, email@example.com, or on Twitter @melissamdaniels. Desert Sun reporter Nicole Hayden covers health. She can be reached at Nicole.Hayden@desertsun.com or (760) 778-4623. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_A_Hayden.