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San Mateo Health Officer Urges Vigilance Amid Reopening, Says Hospitalizations Rising

SAN MATEO COUNTY (CBS SF) – While San Mateo County continues the process of reopening businesses, the county's health officer urged residents to continue taking precautions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Dr. Scott Morrow made the remarks Monday, as a new health order went into effect on the Peninsula. The revised order (.pdf) allows for the opening of houses of worship, retail stores and beaches with modifications. The county had moved into Phase 2 of reopening on May 18th.

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"We are already seeing an upward trend in hospitalizations with the modifications that have already been made. This means the virus is likely now circulating at higher levels than before," Morrow said.

According to data posted on the health department's website, there are 56 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, with 27 in the ICU as of Sunday. The county has reported 2,188 coronavirus cases and 84 deaths.

The health officer also said the virus's "Re" number has started to rise. The number, a measure on its ability to spread,  is the average number of people who become infected by an infectious person. If the number is above 1.0, the virus could spread quickly.

"Our best estimate of the Re (the effective reproductive number) after the first Shelter in Place order was 0.9, down from between 3 and 4 in the weeks prior to that," Morrow said. "After the several rounds of loosening of restrictions, it is now estimated at 1.3. That means without everyone doing their part, and maintaining a Re closer to 1, the virus is set to explode again."

The health officer issued a challenge to residents, saying, "the power to control the spread of the virus is moving to you, the individual, and you, the community. You get to decide what future you want. Your collective behavior will determine our destiny. If enough people, businesses, or organizations in the community do not follow the protective recommendations, the virus may spread with abandon."

"If you have any worry at all about the virus and its effect on you, your family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, or others, you should know, it is not completely safe to be out, it is even less safe to attend gatherings of any size," Morrow concluded, urging those who are at risk for serious complications to "take all measures to ensure your safety."

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