Nine California counties are reporting a spike in new coronavirus cases or hospitalizations of confirmed cases, some from Memorial Day holiday gatherings and others from prisons and nursing homes.
In Sacramento County, which had 33 hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients and 14 in its intensive care units as of Tuesday, health officials said the spike in infections is tied to recent gatherings, including birthday parties and a funeral.
County officials said they don’t believe the spike is tied to recent protests, KTLA sister station KTXL in Sacramento reported.
“In fact, we don’t think any of our cases are related to the protest,” county health services director Dr. Peter Beilenson said. “The fact that the police and a lot of the protesters, most of the folks that I saw, were both wearing masks may well have helped prevent the spread.”
State officials reported only a modest increase in hospitalizations statewide on Tuesday. California has had 133,489 total confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 4,697 deaths linked to it since the beginning of the pandemic.
Dr. Olivia Kasirye, the county’s public health officer, is advising against all gatherings other than for religious services and protests. She warned that parties in homes are particularly worrisome; they can be dangerous because there is less room for social distancing and they can last for several hours.
“Because people are meeting with people they already know they tend to be more relaxed and not wear the face coverings and do not remember to do frequent hand washing or sanitizing,” she said.
The county, like most others in California, has allowed restaurants to reopen for dine-in service, but Kasirye said only individuals within a household should go out or gather together. County officials are advising against events like cookouts and family get-togethers with people who are not part of a household.
“They need to remain within their own family unit,” she said, although the county cannot enforce the recommendations.
Current hospitalization figures in Sacramento are still well below the county’s peak of sick patients in early April. “Even with the spike, we still have ample capacity” in hospitals, Kasirye said.
Eight other counties that have partially reopened are also seeing an increasing spread of the disease or more hospitalizations. The reasons vary, according to the California Department of Public Health.
In Fresno County, there is “elevated disease transmission” in skilled nursing facilities, the state said. Imperial County is seeing more cases as U.S. citizens cross the Mexican border seeking healthcare. San Bernardino is seeing a spike after gatherings for May holidays and outbreaks at prisons, jails and some skilled nursing facilities.
The state is also watching San Joaquin, Tulare, Santa Clara and Los Angeles counties for increases in cases or hospitalizations.
Sacramento County has 30 contact tracers on staff. They interview people who have tested positive for coronavirus and reach out to family and friends to determine who else may have been exposed over two weeks.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.