SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California has begun to see concerning upticks in coronavirus data after a sustained period of decline, the state's top health official said Friday, urging people to renew efforts to prevent spread.
The increases include the rate of cases per capita, hospital emergency department visits for COVID-19 and new hospitalizations for confirmed or suspected cases, California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly said.
Ghaly said the trends appear to be attributable to gathering and activities around the Labor Day holiday. Other factors could include recent reopening of businesses and massive wildfires that forced evacuations and millions to change their routines because of unhealthy air.
A troubling short-term forecast sees an 89% increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations from the current 2,578 — the lowest figure since early April — to just under 5,000 by Oct. 25, Ghaly said. An added concern is the upcoming flu season.
Ghaly noted that the state was heading into another hot weekend which could lead to more people congregating with others and providing more opportunities for transmission of the virus.
“I think our key message today is continue to do what helped us get to a lower risk. safer, lower transmission environment across our state,” he said.
Ghaly urged people to wear face coverings, maintain physical distancing, avoid mixing with others, get a flu shot and to “use good judgment.”
“All of those tools that we have in our toolkit should be used this weekend and moving forward so we can really bring these upward trends back down, and even bring them further down,” he said.
Earlier this week, more of California was cleared to reopen additional businesses, including most of the San Francisco Bay Area.
The lifting of some restrictions in counties that have shown improvement comes as California tries for a second time to recover from the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on business. An earlier effort to reopen more quickly backfired with a surge in cases and hospitalizations in late spring and early summer.
California has the most confirmed cases in the country with 801,000, and the fourth-most deaths with 15,461, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The statewide infection rate for the last week was 2.8%, the lowest since the start of the pandemic, but has started rising again in some areas of the state.