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California seeing biggest jump in virus cases in months

Posted at 6:37 PM, Nov 09, 2020

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- California's coronavirus cases are at their highest levels in months, a disquieting reality Gov,. Gavin Newsom said Monday was "obviously sobering" and that led San Francisco Bay Area health officials to urge people who travel outside the region to quarantine for two weeks upon return.

Newsom said some of the increase could be tied to Halloween gatherings while Barbara Ferrer, the health director for Los Angeles County, urged people who gathered during the weekend to celebrate Joe Biden's victory in the presidential race to quarantine to avoid fueling the spread.

LA County is home to 10 million people, roughly one-quarter of California's population, and was seeing 750 cases per day in September. Last week, four days saw case counts above 2,000.

"Recovery just doesn't continue when you have thousands of new cases each day," Ferrer said. "And many of these cases stem from people taking risks that are frankly not appropriate. It isn't that hard to play by the rules, especially since these rules are what keep some people alive and allow our economy to improve."

California hasn't seen the dramatic surges other states are experiencing but new figures are troubling. The number of newly confirmed cases, the infection rate, hospitalizations and intensive care cases all have reached their highest level in months, Newsom warned.

The positivity rate -- the number of people who test positive -- climbed from 2.5% to 3.7% in about three weeks, hospitalizations are up 29% over 14 days and "that trendline continues up," he said. California is nearing two grim milestones: 1 million cases and 18,000 deaths.

Each Tuesday the state updates counties' progress on the state's four-tier, color-coded system for reopening. During the two months the system has been implemented most counties moved into less restrictive tiers. But this week's update is expected to see counties go the other way and have to reimpose restrictions on how businesses operate, said Newsom and the state's top health official, Dr. Mark Ghaly.

The San Francisco Bay Area, health officials for 10 counties and the city of Berkeley expanded a recommendation last week by San Francisco asking residents to self-quarantine when they return home to try to prevent a spike in coronavirus cases.

"This surge in COVID-19 cases is not what we want to see going into the fall and winter holiday season," said Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody.

Her county reported 358 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, second-highest during the pandemic.

Cody said the increase is largely among people between the ages of 18 and 34 and could be because people are letting their guards down on safety measures.

Newsom said the state's increase may be linked to Halloween, but more broadly appears tied to larger social gatherings.

Ghaly said that is perhaps because they falsely feel safer among family and friends.


Associated Press writers Janie Har and Olga Rodriguez contributed to this report from San Francisco.