Updated 2:24 p.m.
As California moves to reopen, Sacramento and two other Northern California counties are reporting a surge in new COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Sacramento, San Joaquin and Santa Clara counties have been placed on a state “watch list” for growing numbers of hospitalizations. Sacramento is experiencing the largest surge, while San Joaquin is being monitored for limited hospital capacity, as well. Stockton is now considering an ordinance to require everyone to wear face coverings.
On May 27, Sacramento County had eight hospitalizations and six people in the ICU. Nearly two weeks later, the number of hospitalizations has more than quadrupled, to 33, while 14 patients are in the ICU. In San Joaquin, hospitalizations jumped from 14 to 43 over the same period, according to the county’s COVID-19 data dashboard.
Sacramento County Health Director Dr. Peter Beilenson said the new hospitalizations have been linked to private social gatherings.
“They are predominantly related to four large gatherings: two birthday parties, including a birthday party where a lot of people came from out of town, a funeral and a church event,” he said.
“We want to get the message out to people that though they're able to be more sociable, they should be more sensible,” Beilenson said. “If you go to a restaurant, go only with another family that has been predominantly quarantining at home by themselves, instead of going in a big group.”
When that’s not possible, “the basic messages still hold true: Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, have social distancing of at least six feet and wear a mask whenever possible.”
Beilenson said none of the new hospitalizations have been linked to recent demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd by Minnesota police. “It’s been two weeks since we’ve started the protests – you would have expected some of them to have shown up by now,” he said.
Since late May, daily demonstrations have drawn hundreds of people to downtown Sacramento. Police estimate 15,000 people attended a peaceful march on Saturday.
Social distancing guidelines are rarely followed at the protests, but Beilenson believes that could be because the events are largely attended by younger, healthier people who mostly wore masks and who “would probably be asymptomatic” if they did have the virus.
Beilenson said “it makes sense” for anyone who attended a protest to get tested for the virus, though he stopped short of officially recommending it. “If people are interested in getting tested, they should get tested,” he said.
The spike comes as the state prepares to allow bars, gyms, schools, movie theaters and other public spaces to reopen with modifications as soon as Friday. Beilenson said the county still plans to move ahead with those reopenings unless the number of hospitalizations continues to spike.
“If we continue to see a rise that's this significant over the next two to three weeks, we might well pull back on some of the restrictions,” he said. The county’s hospitalizations peaked in early April, when 76 patients were hospitalized, with about one-third of those in ICU beds, Beilenson said.
Track the total number of cases and deaths by county in our California COVID-19 tracker.
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