Newsom says California is able to ‘pause’ reopening if necessary as state reports 32% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations


Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday officials are concerned about a recent rise in California’s coronavirus transmission and hospitalization rates, warning the state is able to “pause” reopening if necessary.

The state’s coronavirus positivity rate jumped to 5.1% in the last two weeks, and to 5.6% in the last week, while hospitalizations for COVID-19 went up 32% in the past 14 days.

Across the state’s counties, 4,240 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 Thursday.

“We’ve got Fourth of July coming up,” Newsom said. “We have rules of the road — expectations — that we believe need to be met, and cannot impress upon people more important at this critical juncture, when we are experiencing an increase in cases that we had not experienced in the past, to take seriously this moment.”

At least 195,571 people statewide have tested positive for the virus and 5,733 have died of the respiratory illness it causes. Los Angeles County remains the epicenter of the pandemic in the state, reporting about half its cases and deaths.

“We are seeing roughly 56,000 new cases just the last 14 days, and so points of obvious and real concern,” the governor said.

Newsom said if the state makes progress, “we’ll continue to move forward, not backwards, in a thoughtful way.”

“To the extent we do not see progress being made, and we’re not advancing the cause of public health and public safety, then we certainly reserve the right to put a pause in terms of advancing into the subsequent phase,” he said.

The state is currently moving toward the third stage of reopening its economy, having already given the green light for counties to reopen restaurants, hair salons, bars, places of worship, entertainment centers and more. The next stage would allow more personal care businesses and recreational venues to reopen.

“We have the capacity and ability to toggle back in terms of stay at home order, and the guidance that we put out,” the governor said.

This mirrors warnings the governor made weeks ago as the state began reopening, as closures to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus took a devastating toll on local economies.

So far, more than 3.7 million people have been tested for the coronavirus in California — 88,000 of them in the last seven days.

“While that is significant, it’s not where we need to be,” Newsom said.

Officials have explained that while the increased testing has contributed to the higher case numbers reported each day, counties have seen increased coronavirus spread in recent weeks as more spaces reopened, including in L.A. County.

As he’s done many times before, the governor urged residents to wear masks, wash their hands, practice physical distancing, and to “use common sense.”

“When our system cannot absorb when there’s a capacity consideration or limitation, that’s when we obviously have alarm bells that are raised [and] concerns that are debated and discussed,” he said.

The state is monitoring 11 counties over concerns about their ability to contain COVID-19 amid reopening plans. 

Among them are Riverside and San Bernardino counties, where officials believe recent social gatherings are partly to blame for increased coronavirus transmissions, according to the state’s health department.

In response, Riverside County health department spokesman Jose Arballo Jr. said it was always expected that there would be increased coronavirus transmission as more businesses reopened, but the biggest factor contributing to the increase is families not observing public safety guidelines when they go out, like wearing masks, washing their hands or keeping at least 6 feet away from others.

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