Newsom threatens to rollback reopening amid rising coronavirus numbers

California's COVID-19 numbers continue to rise which has prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom and county leaders in hard-hit areas to pull back on reopening. 

The state's positivity rate rose 5.5% from 4.4% two weeks ago. Newsom said an increase in testing is not the only reason.  

“We don’t like the trendline, that’s why again this mandatory mask requirement is in effect, that’s why we’re using this dimmer switch to start to pull back," the governor said during Monday's briefing. 

Nearly three-quarters of California residents live in counties facing concerning coronavirus trends, Newsom said as he warned he would impose further targeted shutdowns of counties or businesses if necessary and step up enforcement of his orders.

His comments came a day after he ordered bars to close in seven counties and suggested eight others do the same, including Contra Costa and Santa Clara. 

All are on a county monitoring list that now includes 19 of the state’s 58 counties, home to a majority of California’s nearly 40 million people. He added Solano, Glenn, Orange, and Merced counties to the list.

“Many people were not necessarily being as responsible as we would like them to be as it relates to practicing physical distancing,” Newsom said of his decision.

Any county on the state’s monitoring list for more than 14 days must close bars. Newsom said he’s also considering more restrictive measures, but he gave no details. He also said the state would step up its enforcement of guidelines and the mandatory mask order.

California was the first state to issue a mandatory stay-at-home order in mid-March, but Newsom began relaxing restrictions in early May. Now most counties may allow the opening of retail stores, restaurants for dine-in service, movie theaters, nail and hair salons, day camps, outdoor spaces, and more. But the state’s confirmed cases are on the rise, as are hospitalizations and the rate of people testing positive for the virus, both concerning signs to state health officials.

Over the last two weeks, coronavirus-related hospitalizations have increased 49%, ICU admissions 37%. Still, Newsom stressed he remains confident in the state's capacity. “Numbers going up, but our ability to manage and absorb also is significant."

In addition to bars, the governor pointed to family gatherings and people letting their guard down for spiking numbers. The governor said he will address the issue in more depth later in the days to come.

Meanwhile, the state released guidance allowing for the resumption of visits to nursing homes. Nursing homes that can meet certain criteria may let residents choose one designated visitor. Those criteria are: a decline in new cases, hospitalizations or deaths; no new virus cases in the facility among residents or staff for 14 days; adequate staff and testing; and having an approved mitigation plan to deal with outbreaks.

“We recognize the need, and frankly the demand, of loved ones to be able to not just visit but participate in the care and nourishment of those family members,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency.

And as the state battles virus outbreaks in prisons, Newsom said the state has identified an additional 3,500 prisoners who are scheduled for release within 180 days who may be released earlier. The state previously released a similar number of prisoners.

More than 1,000 of the nearly 2,600 California prisoners who have tested positive for the coronavirus are in San Quentin State Prison in the San Francisco Bay Area. Forty percent of the prisoners there are considered “medically vulnerable,” and some of them may be eligible for the earlier release, Newsom said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.