California senator wants stricter shelter-in-place orders as virus cases rise

California set new records Thursday with rising numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths, prompting one state senator to urge Gov. Gavin Newsom to return to the strict shelter-at-home order that was imposed at the start of the outbreak in March.

"A stronger shelter in place order is what's required today if we're going to stop the spread of this virus," said state Sen. Steve Glazer of Orinda.

On Thursday, California's total reached 425,616 confirmed cases of COVID-19, surpassing New York. The state also recorded a record number of 157 deaths in one day. The positivity rate, which reflects the percentage of positive COVID tests also has steadily increased from 4% in May to 7.6% this week.

Glazer is proposing that the governor shut down any county with a positivity rate above 2% or any county that is adjacent to one with a positivity rate above 2%. Glazer says he indicated 2% because that has been a successful standard in some countries.

That essentially would mean the entire state, including Modoc County in northeastern California which has zero cases, but borders Lassen County which as a 14% positive test rate.

Glazer's proposal, if adopted, would mean no more outdoor restaurant dining, salon services, or gatherings.

"The way to get us back quicker and sooner is to have a strict shelter-in-place for a minimum of three weeks and bring this virus infection spread down to a manageable level where our testing and tracing can keep it contained," said Glazer.

Dr. John Swartzberg, U.C. Berkeley clinical professor of infectious diseases, says it will take several weeks before data reflects whether  Newsom's tighter restrictions July 13 will slow the virus's spread.

"We're clearly going in the wrong direction and at a pretty rapid clip and we have to stop this," said Dr. Swartzberg,

Swartzberg says it isn't clear though, that a single 2% benchmark would be necessary.

"If you're doing enough testing and can get below 5% usually you can hold the pandemic at a certain level. If you can get below 3%, that's when you can use contact tracing much more aggressively than we are now," said Swartberg.

Glazer is also calling for a 14-day quarantine on anyone entering the state from an area with high coronavirus positivity rates.

The governor's office issued a statement responding to Glazer's call to action.

Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly defended the Newsom administration's actions saying, “We are confident that our approach – data driven, with a commitment to ongoing learning, adapting and adjusting – will guide us through the pandemic. From the outset we envisioned reopening the economy as a dimmer switch, where we toggle modifications and closures up and down to avoid large-scale surges. This is precisely what we have done. As we look ahead, we must work together, all 40 million Californians strong, to reduce the spread of the virus in our communities.”

Swartzberg says the state should be ramping up testing to reach at least 200,000 daily COVID tests by the fall. He also says by mid-August if the virus transmission does not appear to be slowing, then Californians might need to return to more severe shelter-in-place restrictions.

He says the most critical factor is for all Californians to wear masks, maintain social distance and avoid gatherings.

"We need to hold the mirror up to ourselves and look in that mirror and say are we, or am I, doing everything I can to prevent this pandemic from growing," Swartzberg said.