California authorities said Wednesday that facial coverings can serve as extra protection against contracting and spreading the coronavirus, but they emphasized that masks should not replace physical distancing and handwashing.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, who’s been holding a daily press conference to discuss the state’s response to the pandemic, also announced that California has recorded 8,155 COVID-19 cases and 171 deaths.
Those are up from the 6,932 cases and 150 deaths Newsom disclosed Tuesday. The number of patients in intensive care units has increased to 774 from 657.
There are 1,855 coronavirus patients hospitalized, Newsom said.
With new evidence suggesting a significant number of infected people don’t show symptoms, state Health Officer Dr. Sonia Angell acknowledged the benefits of facial coverings outside health care settings.
She said local jurisdictions that have advised residents to cover their faces when they go outside did so thoughtfully. (In Southern California, Riverside County made such recommendations on Tuesday but advised against buying N95 masks.)
“There is some evidence that using face coverings may reduce asymptotic infections,” Angell said on Wednesday.
But improper use of masks also poses a risk, she added.
“If you use them, make sure you maintain that physical distance,” Angell said.
Newsom also emphasized that Californians shouldn’t take away resources from health care centers, where hospital-grade masks are necessary, adding that state officials continue to work on meeting the needs of hospitals for N95 masks and other protective gear.
Meanwhile, more than 34,000 people have stepped up just 48 hours after the new California Health Corps was announced, the governor said. The state initiative is intended to boost the medical workforce by enlisting graduating students and retired professionals ahead of a possible surge in patients in the coming weeks.
The governor also announced Wednesday that California public schools won’t reopen this academic year, but that instruction will continue online.
Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California Health and Human Services, underscored the need for people to continue staying at home.
He said as far as procuring ventilators and other supplies and increasing the availability of hospital beds, “we are doing about what we had hoped and expected.”
But projections change, Ghally said, and Californians must continue to do their part.
“We need to deliver on these efforts on physical distancing, and that means holding each other accountable, working within our communities to do all that we can do to save lives,” Ghally said.