Spurred by a new COVID-19 cases spike raging from coast to coast, the United States on Monday marked another loathsome pandemic milestone by surpassing 10 million total cases.
The jarring figure comes after a weekend in which the U.S. set a new daily record with 128,000 infections and saw its cumulative death toll climb to 237,000. Faced with dwindling resources and the prospect of overcrowding, cities have been forced to build pop-up hospitals and even morgues as the virus surges once again in the world’s richest nation.
Seeing a 28% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations and other key indicators climbing steadily, California officials are casting major blame for the state’s emerging cases spike on Halloween parties and family functions.
Nearly 500 more Californians are hospitalized due to the virus than at the end of October, while the state’s 7-day test positivity rate — a key indicator of community spread — is up from 2.9% to 3.7%.
After an extended stretch of success in the Golden State that allowed most counties to reopen their shuttered economies, Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday urged residents to keep up their guard even with news of a potential vaccine breakthrough. He said it would be foolhardy for the state’s 40 million residents to drop their masks and rely on a vaccine still months from fruition.
“I’m concerned, truthfully, that we may get over-exuberant because now we believe we have a safe and effective vaccine that is available,” Newsom told reporters. “I can’t impress upon you more what a mistake it would be to read these headlines and then walk away from all the extraordinary progress you and others have made to keep yourself and loved ones safe.”
Newsom was referring to an announcement by pharmaceutical heavyweight Pfizer that a vaccine under development is proving to be 90% effective at protecting against Covid-19. The claim sent U.S. markets soaring, but Newsom said the state and nation should remain guarded in their pandemic fight.
“I’m just trying to be honest with you and forthright around the importance of maintaining our vigilance through this very challenging time as we enter into the winter/cold months,” the Democratic governor said, noting a potential vaccine likely won’t be available for everyone until at least April.
California’s cases spike falls in line with a troubling overarching nationwide trend: Not only has the U.S. set new daily case records routinely over the last week, according to Johns Hopkins University, but also more than 40 states have experienced at least a 10% spike in new cases. Furthermore, the country is averaging a record of 108,000 daily new infections over the last week.
Although California’s rate of spread hasn’t been as alarming as states like Iowa, Utah or Vermont, Newsom acknowledged the state will force some counties to slow their reopening efforts as early as Tuesday. California officials are scheduled to update the state’s tiered coronavirus watchlist Tuesday afternoon.
Counties reported more than 7,000 new infections Monday and the state’s rolling 7-day average is now 5,889 new cases. Meanwhile, more than 3,000 Californians are hospitalized, up from 2,537 on Nov. 1.
Contract tracing done across the state has revealed infections are being driven by Halloween parties and in-home family gatherings, Newsom said. Despite the latest “sobering” spike.
Los Angeles County’s Ferrer: ‘Horrific’ New Cases Numbers
Like the rest of the country, Los Angeles County is in the middle of a surge with no sign of letting up.
L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the numbers for the week of Nov. 2 were “horrific,” with confirmed cases topping 2,000 for four days in a row.
“We are definitely seeing a surge of cases. I couldn’t look at this data any other way — this isn’t a blip any longer,” Ferrer said during a press conference Monday.
Ferrer said last week’s data points to “a definitive and alarming surge” that paints an obvious picture for residents and health officials.
“It’s crystal clear on what the strategies are that are in front of us,” said Ferrer, meaning large gatherings of people who don’t live together should not be occurring.
In addition to Angelenos who took to the streets last month to celebrate world championships by the Dodgers and Lakers, Ferrer noted large crowds gathered this past weekend to either protest or celebrate the results of the presidential election. She urged everyone involved to get tested.
“If you’re going out into these large crowds and you’re singing, shouting and celebrating or protesting” there are high risks, Ferrer said. People need to be more responsible to avoid the spread of the virus or that could mean “troubling times for the winter ahead,” she added.
L.A. County reported 1,413 new cases and 5 new deaths on Monday, bringing the total cases to 323,625 and the death toll to 7,177 since the pandemic began. The county languishes in the most restrictive tier under the state health guideline and is unlikely to leave it any time soon if the recent data is any indication, Ferrer said.
One bright spot, according to Newsom: The state is well-positioned with more than 20,000 ventilators and 7,600 hospital beds available, to go along with a stockpile of more than 500 million masks.
Newsom also said he wasn’t surprised to hear that California was well represented on the Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board introduced earlier Monday by President-elect Joe Biden. The board includes several members from the University of California, San Francisco.
“We talk in terms of abundance here in the state of California. It’s a treasure trove of talent and human capital, the birthplace of biotech and life sciences,” Newsom boasted. “We couldn’t be more prideful and more proud of that extraordinary institution.”
— By Nick Cahill and Nathan Solis, CNS