California’s COVID cases inching up amid nationwide surges

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, center, tours a COVID-19 testing facility with Secretary of the Government Operations Agency Yolanda Richardson, far left, and Secretary for the California Health and Human Services Agency Dr. Mark Ghaly, second from left, Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, in Valencia, Calif. Gov. Newsom announced a new $120 million, 134,000 sq. foot coronavirus testing facility in Valencia Friday. The state is working with corporate partner PerkinElmer to run the lab. It will enable the state to process an additional 150,000 COVID-19 tests per day. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, Pool )

California’s positivity rate of 3.7% “may sound great” compared with other states, the governor said, but he warned people to keep up their guards.

As states struggle to contain COVID-19 surges, Gov. Gavin Newsom today warned that California also is experiencing a rise in cases and hospitalizations — though not yet at levels seen across the nation.

In California, 3.7% of tests are now coming back positive, up 0.8% compared with two weeks ago. For weeks, California was able to keep this number below the 3% mark. Hospitalizations also have increased by almost 30% in the last 14 days.

Over the weekend, some 2,090 people were hospitalized for confirmed COVID-19, with another 811 people in intensive care units, according to CalMatters’ tracker.

The state’s positivity rate, Newsom said, “may sound great compared to most other states right now…but we’re starting to see people again take down their guard, take off their masks, begin to mix outside their household,” Newsom said.

By comparison, Nevada is reporting a 14-day positivity rate of 13.6%. Michigan has a positivity rate of 11.7% and, in Arizona, 10.1% of tests are coming back positive.

Private household gatherings continue to be a major source of transmission, according to Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health and human services secretary.

On Tuesday, Ghaly will give his weekly update on tier assignments for counties, which are based on the level of local virus transmission. He indicated today that potentially no county will be moving forward, but several could be moving backward, meaning they’d have to close down further.

“The (vaccine) availability to you and me and others outside our first responders, outside our health care professionals, is many, many months off.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom

California has yet to release guidelines for the holidays, but as the weather cools and people celebrate indoors, counties have moved to release their own recommendations.

In joint guidance, public health officials from 10 Bay Area counties are advising the public to keep gatherings small, short and outdoors — that means up to three households and no more than two hours. They also discourage any non-essential travel.

In today’s press briefing, Newsom also cautioned people against making plans in response to promising news on the vaccine front.

On Monday, drug manufacturer Pfizer announced that its vaccine was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 during Phase 3 clinical trials.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement he expects the company to have enough safety data to apply for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration by next week.

But initial supply will be limited, Newsom warned. “Mass distribution is a ways off,” he said.

“The availability to you and me and others outside our first responders, outside our health care professionals, is many, many months off.”

Today, President-elect Joe Biden also announced his transition COVID-19 advisory board, which includes three experts from the University of California, San Francisco.

CalMatters COVID-19 coverage, translation and distribution is supported by generous grants from the Blue Shield of California Foundation, the California Wellness Foundation and the California Health Care Foundation.

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