With California’s COVID-19 Hospitalizations Rising, Gavin Newsom Says Mask Order Isn’t Optional

Newsom points to rising COVID-19 cases to justify mask order | The ...

Source: The Sacramento Bee, by Andrew Sheeler

California is seeing a growing number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and intensive care unit cases, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday, making it all the more necessary that people follow his mandatory mask order in public.

“The reason we’re doing this is simple. Wearing face coverings saves lives and mitigates spread,” Newsom said during his Monday press conference. “As we reopen, all I ask is that we are more vigilant than we have been.”

The Democratic governor said that while his administration is looking to local governments to enforce the mask order, he has the power to go after those who are “thumbing their nose” at the requirement. He said that while masks previously were recommended, they are now mandatory in situations in which people cannot be socially distant.

“There’s no ambiguity there,” he said.

Some local officials have questioned his move, saying no law allows them to cite individual offenders. In Sacramento over the weekend, people congregated at some bars with few face masks in sight.

But Newsom said the state if necessary has enforcement power through the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which issues and regulates liquor licenses, and Cal-OSHA, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which protects workers from safety hazards.

Newsom also called on the public to help with enforcement, such as by reporting restaurants that aren’t following state reopening guidelines.

In the last 14 days, the number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations has increased 16 percent, Newsom said, while the number of ICU cases is up 11 percent.

In addition, the positivity rate — how many people test positive for COVID-19 out of the total number tested — ticked up to 4.8 percent Sunday, Newsom said. It was 4.5 percent on June 14.

“Bottom line is, as we move forward, to be sober about the reality that again we are still in the first wave of this pandemic,” Newsom said.

California’s hospitals are currently at about 7 percent of capacity for COVID-19 hospitalizations, Newsom said.

The state has more than 73,000 hospital beds, Newsom said, with a surge capacity of more than 52,000 beds. In addition, the state has an ICU capacity of more than 4,100 ICU beds, with more than 11,600 ventilators.

“Despite an increase in hospitalizations, despite an increase in the total number of ICU patients, our capacity remains fairly stable compared to where it was a week ago, and certainly is in a much better position than we were a number of months ago,” Newsom said.

There have been 173,824 cases of COVID-19 in the state, with 5,495 fatalities, according to the most recent California Department of Public Health data. There have been more than 3,600 hospitalizations for COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19, including more than 1,300 ICU visits.

In addition, the state is continuing to provide technical support to 11 counties, down from 13 last week, in dealing with the spread of coronavirus, Newsom said.

Among the counties recently added to that list were Stanislaus, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Secretary of Health and Human Services, said those counties are starting to see additional spread in community settings.

Ghaly, reinforcing Newsom’s mask message, warned that a single infected person, unmasked, can spread COVID-19 to more than 400 people in a 30-day period. If the same person wears a mask, stays home as much as possible and socially distances, he said, that number drops to 2.5.

“And that is exactly how we control the spread in California,” Ghaly said.

Last Updated 07/01/2020

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