PITTSBURG (CBS SF) — The continuing surge of coronavirus cases in California and the upcoming Fourth of July holiday weekend will force a rollback in the state’s phased reopening plans and stricter enforcement of health orders such as wearing masks, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday.
Newsom previewed new measures as California once again shattered its record for new cases of COVID-19, with some 8,300 new infections from Sunday to Monday. Over the last 24 hours, Newsom said there were 6,376 new cases, with hospitalizations up 6.3 percent, ICU patients up 4.3 percent, and the 14-day testing positivity rate increasing to 5.6 percent.
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Newsom spoke outside a motel in Pittsburg for his Tuesday briefing on the state’s coronavirus response, updating the state’s progress in housing homeless people in hotels and motels purchased by the state. Toward the end of the press conference, the governor said his Wednesday briefing would include announcements on changes in the state’s health order as well as the addition of four more counties to the state’s watch list of counties requiring additional resources to manage its pandemic response.
“Tomorrow we’ll be making some additional announcements on efforts to use that ‘dimmer switch’ that we’ve referred to, and begin to toggle back on our stay-at-home order and tighten things up,” said Newsom. “The framework for us is this: if you’re not going to stay home and you’re not going to wear masks in public, we have to enforce and we will, and we’ll be making announcements on enforcement tomorrow.”
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Newsom also said health authorities would refine the orders having to do with indoor activities, saying people must recognize that the spread of COVID-19 is much more probable in indoor settings than in outdoor settings.
“And so we’ll be looking at a lot of the current stay-at-home orders, or rather we’ll start looking at the health orders and health directives in relation to indoor versus outdoor activities,” he said.
The governor said the top concern for health officers is people planning family gatherings for the July 4th weekend, and extended family members taking down their guard once they get together.
“I cannot say it enough; I said it last week, I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again. We’ve got Fourth of July weekend coming up. One of the areas of biggest concern relates to the spread of COVID-19 in this state remains family gatherings. Not just bars. Not just being out in the streets where people are protesting and the like,” said Newsom. “It’s specifically family gatherings. Where family members or rather households — immediate and extended family members — begin to mix and take down their guard. They may walk into that barbecue with masks on; then they put the cooler down and the mask comes off, they have a glass of water, and all of a sudden nieces and nephews start congregating.”
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As he has previously noted, Newsom again indicated that $2.5 billion in funding to counties is conditioned on those counties enforcing the state’s health orders such as using masks in public spaces.
“We have conditioned $2.5 billion in our state budget on applying the spirit and the letter of the law as it relates to health directives at a county level. If local officials are unwilling to enforce and are being dismissive, we will condition the distribution of those dollars. So there are financial conditions, there is regulatory oversight, there is code oversight; all of those things are part of our overall efforts,” said Newsom.
The governor also said Cal-OSHA and the state’s Alcohol and Beverage Control would be active in enforcement of health orders.
During the briefing, a group of Black Lives Matter protesters attempted to disrupt the governor’s announcements, with a bullhorn being used to demand a redistribution of state resources, according to a pool reporter on the scene.
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Earlier in the press conference, Newsom touted the state’s Project Roomkey program which has housed some 14,000 homeless individuals in properties such as motels and hotels purchased by the state.
Despite the state’s current $54.3 billion budget deficit, $1.3 billion has been carved out to continue programs such as Project Roomkey, Newsom said. Another $350 million is slated to pay for support services for people being housed in the acquired properties.
Newsom closed his comments on Tuesday with a message of optimism about the state’s resilience and capacity to meet the challenge presented by COVID-19: “We bent the curve in the state of California once; we will bend the curve again. Mark my words. We will crush this pandemic. We will annihilate it. We will get past this. But we’re going to have to be tougher.”