As we slowly transition back to a point of pre-coronavirus normalcy, counties across the state are seeing swells in COVID-19 cases. However, a California Health and Human Services (CHHS) official claims these spikes are because of increased testing — and not due to businesses reopening.
This past Thursday and Friday, around 7,200 new coronavirus cases were reported across California; yesterday, 28 new cases were reported in San Francisco. Not much earlier this spring, such a climb in numbers would've caused health experts and officials to raise red flags and warning signs en masse, calling for even stricter shelter-in-place regulations. However, a high-ranking member of that same cohort now appears less inclined to point a finger at the state's reopening plan, suggesting increased testing availability is the reason behind these sudden flare-ups.
“We’ve ramped up testing in an extraordinary way, nearly hitting our goal that was set for August — not June, not July, but August — of getting to 60,000 to 80,000 tests a day,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, California's secretary of Health and Human Services, said Friday during a press conference. “We’re already knocking on that door, averaging in the [mid- to high-50s] over the past few days across the state.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, CA officials are predicating their containment and quarantine strategies around the state's positivity rate — the percentage of people that test positive for COVID-19 out of all those screened for the disease — and daily COVID-19-related hospitalizations, specifically ICU admissions. Ghaly notes that an increase in the state's positivity rate would imply an increase in community transmission, while an uptick in hospitalized cases might suggest the possibility of the state's healthcare system becoming overly taxed and unable to cope — and, perhaps, that the virus is mutating into a more severe strain.
As of June 9: Almost 2 million #COVID19 cases have been reported in the U.S., with 37 states and jurisdictions reporting more than 10,000 cases. Continue to slow the spread by wearing a cloth face covering and washing your hands often. https://t.co/wiuFBKR3Uh pic.twitter.com/aejD1WDyGL— CDC (@CDCgov) June 10, 2020
Ghaly iterates these case increases we're seeing are because of widespread testing efforts and not related to community spread.
“I think it’s natural, that it’s easy to just focus on the number of new cases," he adds, per the Los Angeles Times. "But I think that’s really anchored — if you’re not seeing a tremendous uptick in the number of hospitalizations in the right timeline or … ICU cases, that’s really connected at least in California’s case to an increase in testing. So I think it’s always important to kind of have that in the context.”
Ghaly continues saying that he and his department will "still stay vigilant and watchful over the movement of COVID-19," so the public can acclimate back to some semblances of familiarity as safely as possible.
As state officials continue to allow more businesses (like movie theaters, gyms, and beauty parlors) to reopen, counties will still have the final say in implementing those newly approved regulations at whatever pace they see fit.
Case in point: San Francisco's "Phase 2B" that allows for al fresco dining is already in motion, with "Phase 3" — which will include fitness centers, nail and hair salons, and places that sell "nonessential healing art" — not expected to go into effect until mid-August.
The John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center’s map put the current worldwide COVID-19 case count at 7,719,770; research conducted by the Global Policy Lab at UC Berkeley suggests 530 million infections were avoided as a result of social distancing and other preventive measures.
Image: Unsplash via Mika Baumeister