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'We Are Not Out Of The 1st Wave'; Gov. Newsom, Former Governors Urge Californians To Wear Masks

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- Governor Gavin Newsom reiterated to Californians the importance of wearing masks on Monday during a press conference updating the state's coronavirus response.

Newsom repeatedly urged people to continue using masks to four days after state health authorities ordered the mandatory wearing of masks in most public settings statewide.

"The reason we're doing this is simple. Wearing face coverings saves lives and mitigates spread," said Newsom, who began the press conference by removing a mask he was wearing.

Newsom said the mask mandate was required because not enough people were choosing to wear masks in public – despite the urging of health officials that face coverings will help stop the spread of coronavirus by limiting the spread of droplets from people who are infected but may be asymptomatic.

Testing across the state has skyrocketed to nearly 90,000 tests per day while the positive test rate has stabilized around 4.5 percent over the last month, according to Newsom. However, the positive rate rose from 4.5 percent on June 14 to 4.8 percent on Sunday.

"We're not into the second wave. We're not out of the first wave," said Newsom. "We are experiencing, we have experienced, just over the last 14 days, some 35.6 percent of all of the cases that have been reported, just in the last 14 days, 46,000+ new cases. Just yesterday, 4,230 individuals tested positive for COVID-19, 4,515 in the previous day which was a record day. Those that suggest that we're out of the woods, those that suggest that somehow it's going to disappear, these numbers tell a very, very different and sobering story."

The state has also seen a 16 percent increase in coronavirus hospitalizations over the last two weeks, from 3,184 on June 7 to 3,702 on Sunday, and an 11 percent increase in intensive care patients.

As of Tuesday morning, California has reported a total of 178,054 COVID-19 cases, with a total of 5,515 deaths.

During his press conference, Newsom played a new video featuring former California governors Jerry Brown, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gray Davis and Pete Wilson, each urging Californians to wear masks.

Newsom said the state has the ability to go after individuals and businesses that are "thumbing their nose" at the statewide mandatory mask order and that don't comply with current rules and guidelines to protect workers and customers, insisting that Californians must wear masks and practice social distancing in order to keep reopening sectors of the economy safely.

In addition to the number of cases, the number of hospitalizations and ICU patients have been going up. Newsom noted that even with the increase in positivity rate and rising number of cases, the state is still only using a small percentage of available hospital beds.

"The total number reflected is still a very modest subset of the total number of available beds," said Newsom. "Because of the work over the last few months, we are still identifying our surge capacity and putting protocols and plans together -- both on the physical capacity as well as the human resource side -- we're in a position to absorb even greater increases."

State health officer Dr. Mark Ghaly noted the increased number of cases is not just from increased testing, pointing out that health officials are starting to see additional spread in community settings.

"Those are cases where they can't be linked necessarily to a congregate setting that are spreading within households and households that live in closer quarters," said Dr. Ghaly. "Maybe in communities where they have a number of multi-generational households and where we're not just seeing that uptick in the numbers of cases as reflected in the case rate increases, but also in the commensurate hospital increases that we're seeing."

In the Bay Area, Alameda County now has the most infections and deaths from COVID-19 among all Bay Area counties. Still, restrictions in Alameda County are beginning to loosen and more people are out and about. Alameda County Public Health Officer Dr. Erica Pan says it's not surprising that the county logged 133 new positive coronavirus cases on Sunday, a new record.

"Gradual loosening of restrictions and then also more testing - we are also pleased to say that we are over four-fifths of the way to our testing goal," Dr. Pan told KPIX 5.

Alameda County is not alone; Contra Costa County also set a record for positive cases on Saturday with 92.

Across the state of California, hospitalizations are up 16 percent and ICU cases are up 11 percent in the past two weeks. Dr. Pan says Alameda County is not in danger of overrunning their health care system. "We know that COVID is only taking up less than five percent of our hospital beds through the whole county right now," said Pan.


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