At the hour when California Governor Gavin Newsom normally holds his coronavirus news conference, the state’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mark Ghaly, delivered a presentation on the state’s actions thusfar and the rationale for them. He also hinted at new guidance yet to come from the state. (Note: California’s daily COVID-19 numbers are at the bottom of this post.)
Ghaly began on Tuesday with one of the governor’s standard arguments, saying the reopening has been guided by data. Ghaly then scrolled through a number of slides to illustrate “The California COVID Story.” Highlights included California being the first state in the nation to shut down and its success flattening the curve early on.
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The secretary continued with some optimistic data points, including: “We don’t see the same double-digit increases” in hospitalizations and new cases that had become the norm. He also noted that, as a result, “We continue to see transmission come down. We have again built up sufficient hospital capacity across the state.”
But, said Ghaly, “The governor’s finger is on that dimmer switch. We, at this moment, continue to watch the data.”
He said the time that’s passed is not enough to know whether last month’s mask order or the more recent closure orders are enough. “That 2-3 week period might not be long enough to feel the impact of the statewide face covering directive.”
Asked when he thought those results might show, Ghaly was noncommittal, saying, “I won’t commit to a certain date. I wish I had that crystal ball.” But the secretary did reveal something else in the state’s future.
“We are preparing to put out a playbook to augment the guidelines that have already been put out,” said Ghaly. He did not detail whether the playbook of augmentations would result in a tightening or loosening of restrictions. But Ghaly did say that “the overall health of Californians is what will guide the governor. Not just north or south, but all Californians.
“The goal is to box in the virus with clear sector guidance, testing and contact tracing,” he said.
That announcement came a day after California Governor Gavin Newsom said at his Monday press conference that the state was adjusting some of the workplace closure guidelines it issued last week, specifically those around hair salons and barbershops and the “personal care services industry.” The governor said he had wanted to make the changes earlier, but that it “turned out that was more challenging than it may have appeared.
“The good news is,” said Newsom, “we now have new guidelines out on the COVID-19.ca.gov website clarifying what we can and can’t do as it relates to hair cuts and activities that we want to move from indoors to outdoors for personal care services industry,” said Newsom. That does not seem to be the end of it.
“If we need to do even more with changing,” said Secretary Ghaly, “modifying or maybe even considering other closures, we will.
“We will always take a broader public health view,” maintained Ghaly. “We talked to our surgeon general months ago about mental health, particularly young people. We will always have a focus on those who are overlooked…communities of color.
“We knew shutting down the economy and our schools caused real mental, economic and educational impact…and the consequences were heavy for CA.”
But, he cautioned, the reopening “has been treated by many as a green light to return to a normal life.
“If the data trends continue to such a place that we don’t think we will get [to recovery],” cautioned the secretary, “we will return to dimming in some areas of the state. We will always have our finger on the dimmer switch, we are not afraid to use it and we will continue to be guided by data.”
Watch Dr. Ghaly’s presentation below.
Also on Tuesday, the state reported 9,231 new cases. California now has 400,769 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The number of COVID-related deaths increased by 61, which is up 0.8 percent for a total of 7,694. The number of COVID-19 diagnostic test results in California reached a total of 6,536,932 an increase of 122,611 tests since Sunday. The rate of positive tests over the last 14 days is 7.5 percent. That’s up .7 percent from the same average 2 weeks ago. California’s hospitalizations due to COVID-19 increased by 170 from the day before. Another 63 coronavirus patients went into ICU care over the same period. That’s up 3.2 percent.