Watch as chef Kristin Smith of Orange Kitchen in Vista, Calif. makes cannabutter gluten free cornbread muffins.
Palm Springs Desert Sun
As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to increase across the state at an alarming rate, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly reminded residents that it is not too late to cancel Thanksgiving plans, even if those conversations are difficult to have. Both county and state health officials acknowledged Tuesday that the upcoming winter holidays will probably be a bit sad this year.
“Our strategy is some short-term pain,” Ghaly said in reference to not inviting his mother over for Thanksgiving this year. “I explained to my son that we will miss Grandma’s great Thanksgiving cooking this year in favor of having her at the table for another 10 years.”
The state reported 15,329 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, nearing the highest total of new daily cases but not quite there yet. On average over the past week, 12,532 new cases have been reported in California each day.
The state’s positivity rate increased 51% over the past two weeks, from 3.7% on Nov. 10 to 5.6% Tuesday. Ghaly said that jump is “a major difference” and the numbers are “continuing to be an area of concern.”
Additionally, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has increased 81% over the past two weeks while COVID-19 patients admitted to intensive care units has increased 57% over that same time period. Currently, there are 5,844 hospitalized coronavirus patients, with 1,397 in the ICU.
More: Still gathering for Thanksgiving despite restrictions? How to do so safely
More: California Gov. Gavin Newsom issues 10 p.m. curfew starting Saturday
Ghaly noted that hospitals across the state are already feeling the pressure; 175 hospitals have asked the state for staffing waivers, which allows for a more flexible nurse to patient ratio as demand increases.
In line with the increase in cases, Ghaly also announced that more counties are moving back to stricter tier assignments within the state’s reopening framework. Its tier system determines which level of restrictions each county must follow, with more rules in place as COVID-19 cases increase.
As of Tuesday, there are now 45 counties in the purple tier, the strictest level which requires indoor dining, gyms and movie theaters, among other businesses, to shut down. Additionally, eight counties are in the red tier, five are in the orange tier and zero remain in the yellow tier, which has the most relaxed rules.
Colusa, Del Norte, Humboldt and Lassen counties moved from the red to purple tier; Calaveras County moved from the orange to the red tier; and Alpine and Mariposa counties moved from the yellow tier back to the orange tier.
While Newsom has issued a travel advisory asking residents to stay home for the holidays, millions of Californians are expected to travel on Thanksgiving, mainly by car.
Inland Empire counties remain in purple tier
Kim Saruwatari, Riverside County health director, said the biggest factor that has led to an increase in cases are private friend and family gatherings — and the holiday parties haven’t even started yet.
“I know many of us have sacrificed so much and worked hard to follow safety guidelines,” Saruwatari said. “This is hard. We have all missed important events like birthdays and weddings. But as a public health official, I have to share my concerns with you. Our numbers are trending in the wrong direction.”
As of Tuesday, Riverside County was reporting a positivity rate of 9.9% and 33.9 new COVID-cases per day per 100,000 people,. A month ago, the county’s positivity rate was 5.7 % and its case rate was 10.1 new cases per day per 100,000 people.
Neighboring San Bernardino County is reporting a positivity rate of 13.7% and 50.4 new COVID-cases per day per 100,000 people. A month ago, that county’s positivity rate was 6.6% and its case rate was 11.9 new cases per day per 100,000 residents.
“These numbers represent people,” Saruwatari said. “They represent our family members, our neighbors, our colleagues, and if history is any indication, we can expect a slight bump or a surge in the following weeks as we saw an uptick (after every holiday so far).”
To move into the red tier, both counties must show two consistent weeks of documenting between four and seven new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 county residents on a rolling seven-day average, and report a positivity rate between 5% and 8%.
One number trending upward is the number of people getting tested for coronavirus. As this increase comes just before the holiday, Saruwatari said she expects people are getting tested to assess whether it is safe for them to gather for a celebration.
“Testing is not a way to assess your safety at private gatherings,” she said. “Please don’t rely on a negative test to mean it is safe to gather with family and friends.”
A test is just a point-in-time assessment; it doesn’t assess whether you have gotten exposed in the days following the test. And at times, a test might not pick up an infection if a person contracted the virus just a couple days prior.
Additionally, since test results in Riverside County are seeing a delay of three to four days, it means that by the time a negative confirmation is received, a person could have been infected in that lag time if they didn’t fully quarantine for those days.
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Dr. Geoffrey Leung, Riverside University Health System-Medical Center chief of medical staff, said even if people believe they are not a threat to others, they should still refrain from gathering with other households to ensure that local hospital systems don’t get overwhelmed in the coming months.
“There has been a near tripling of COVID-19 cases in hospitals recently, and hospitals are starting to feel the strain,” he said. “If this trend continues, we could see two to three times the number of patients at this time in December.”
Hospitals are better prepared for this surge since there are now better treatments for the virus, staff are more experienced and personal protective equipment has been stockpiled; however, officials still fear what an increase in hospitals could do to the health care system if it surpasses that of the summer surge.
“The curve we are seeing now is much steeper, and cases are growing much faster than we saw leading up to the summer surge,” Leung said.
Some counties consider stricter rules, push back
Los Angeles County supervisors voted Tuesday against allowing restaurants to remain open for dining during a surge in coronavirus cases that has the nation’s most populous county on the brink of a stay-home order just days ahead of Thanksgiving.
In a 3-2 vote, the board rejected a motion to let restaurants continue to serve meals outdoors at reduced capacity, despite a plea from owners that a closure was unwarranted and would crush their businesses.
The county crossed a threshold for issuing a new stay-home order Monday, but the Department of Public Health has not yet acted.
“Our metrics are the most alarming metrics that we’ve ever seen,” said Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “Inaction in the face of this devastating acceleration of cases will cause irreparable harm.”
Ferrer told supervisors that a proposed stay-home order would be more modest than a statewide closure in the spring but was necessary to try to curb a dramatic spike in cases.
More than 90% of California currently remains under a “limited” curfew through Dec. 21 as ordered by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Effective from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. in purple tier counties, it still allows residents to pick up to-go food, go grocery shopping or go for walks after 10 p.m., all other businesses must close.
If Los Angeles County orders residents to stay home, it would be the first such action since mid-March when Newsom followed the lead of several counties and issued a statewide order that closed schools and severely restricted movement, except for essential workers and for people to buy groceries or pick up food.
Los Angeles County’s 10 million residents account for a quarter of the state’s 40 million residents, but the county has about a third of the cases and more than a third of deaths.
LAX: Travelers to Los Angeles will have to sign quarantine form starting Wednesday
Outdoor dining: Los Angeles County restricts in-person dining
The California Restaurant Association sued Los Angeles County Tuesday in an effort to overturn the county’s plan to end in-person dining, but a judge declined to immediately intervene.
However, the city of Pasadena, which has an independent public health department, broke with Los Angeles County and decided to allow outside dining to continue at restaurants while it assesses virus numbers.
“We need to balance our growing numbers and the economic hardship of restaurant personnel,” said a statement released by spokeswoman Lisa Derderian.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Desert Sun reporter Nicole Hayden covers health in California. She can be reached at [email protected] or (760) 778-4623. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_A_Hayden.
Coachella Valley: Cases so far
Officials on Tuesday reported 164 new cases and one additional virus-related deaths in the Coachella Valley. Here’s the city and community breakdown, with the numbers in parentheses showing increases from Monday:
- Cathedral City: 2,334 cases (+26), 38 deaths and 2,076 recoveries
- Coachella: 3,250 cases (+24), 33 deaths and 2,888 recoveries
- Desert Hot Springs: 1,399 cases (+13), 30 deaths and 1,188 recoveries
- Indian Wells: 69 cases, 4 deaths and 50 recoveries
- Indio: 4,569 cases (+32), 94 deaths and 3,985 recoveries
- La Quinta: 1,072 cases (+18), 19 deaths and 912 recoveries
- Palm Desert: 1,347 cases (+16), 61 deaths and 1,083 recoveries
- Palm Springs: 1,353 cases (+7), 62 deaths and 1,140 recoveries
- Rancho Mirage: 311 cases (+1), 25 deaths and 251 recoveries
- Unincorporated communities: Bermuda Dunes: 186 cases (+3), 3 deaths and 150 recoveries; Desert Edge: 88 cases (+1), 5 deaths and 71 recoveries; Desert Palms: 72 cases (+3), 5 deaths (+1) and 50 recoveries; Garnet: 274 cases (+2), 5 deaths and 243 recoveries; Mecca: 558 cases (+3), 11 deaths and 476 recoveries; North Shore: 197 cases (+4), 1 death and 154 recoveries; Oasis: 416 cases (+3), 5 deaths and 361 recoveries; Sky Valley: 59 cases (+2), 2 deaths and 52 recoveries; Thermal: 220 cases (+4), 2 deaths and 194 recoveries; Thousand Palms: 309 cases (+2), 1 death and 254 recoveries; Vista Santa Rosa: 114 cases, 1 death and 101 recoveries
- California: 1,125,699 cases (+15,329) and 18,769 deaths (+43)
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