USA

California counties resolved to reopen as coronavirus cases continue to rise

California counties are pressing forward with plans to reopen the economy, even as the number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases continues to rise across the state.

Overall, the state recorded an additional 2,385 confirmed cases of coronavirus Tuesday, and more than 100 new deaths.

As protesters filled the streets Wednesday for another day of marches sparked by the death of George Floyd, the Department of Corrections reported the deaths from the virus of two more inmates at the California Institution for Men in Chino, bringing the total number of deaths related to COVID-19 at the prison to 12.

The Chino prison has reported 444 cases of the virus among inmates.

Across California, the total number of cases is approaching 120,000, and more than 4,300 people have died.

The virus is not spreading at the same rate in all parts of the country, though, with some states seeing a decline in the number of new cases reported each day.

Data collected by researchers at Johns Hopkins University show that California is one of about 20 states where the number of new cases has continued to increase over the past five days.

The pandemic has hit Los Angeles County especially hard. Over the past week, the county has averaged 1,206 new cases and 35.3 new deaths a day, according to The Times’ coronavirus tracker. As of Wednesday morning, 2,448 people in L.A. County have died from the virus — more than any other county in the state.

Testing to see who has been infected with the virus continues to be an important strategy for controlling the spread of the disease, health officials said, but several testing sites in the county were scheduled to close early Wednesday or not open at all amid continued protests and curfews.

Residents who had appointments at closed facilities would be notified via email or phone to reschedule, officials said.

“We are committed to ensuring that our testing sites are safe for both patients and staff,” Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the L.A. County Department of Health Services, said in a statement. “Testing remains a priority.”

Meanwhile, the Orange County Health Care Agency reported 100 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday and three additional deaths.

Even as the number of new cases continues to grow across the state, some counties are announcing plans to open businesses that have been shuttered for months because of stay-at-home orders.

In Sonoma County, health officer Dr. Sundari Mase said she would allow stores to reopen for indoor shopping and restaurants for indoor dining by Saturday, barring no immediate spikes in cases or hospitalizations, the Press-Democrat reported.

Wineries, brewpubs, barbershops and salons in the county also would be allowed to reopen, Mase said. And if all goes well, religious congregations would be allowed to welcome groups of up to 100 people at a time into churches and other houses of worship.

However, nail salons, tattoo and massage parlors, and gyms and fitness studios will remain closed in the county.

As of Tuesday night, Sonoma County had reported 579 confirmed cases of the virus since March 2, and 42 hospitalizations.

Mase said that 71% of the cases were in the Latino community, even though Latinos make up just 27% of the local population. She attributed this discrepancy to “systemic and longstanding inequities” among the county’s Latino population.

For example, Latinos are more likely to live in closer quarters and work in jobs deemed essential that require them to leave their homes, she said.

Some stay-at-home orders also will be lifted in Santa Clara County on Friday, the Mercury News reported.

County health officer Sara Cody, who sounded an alarm a week ago about the clip of reopening across the state, said that on Friday, Santa Clara residents will be able to enjoy outdoor seating at restaurants, shop indoors and attend outdoor religious services.

However, Cody told the county’s board of supervisors Tuesday that she plans to wait at least three weeks before rolling back other parts of the health order. This will give officials time to see how the looser restrictions have affected case counts, hospitalizations and deaths, she said.

“Our goal remains to continue to contain this virus, suppress it as much as we possibly can, while we reopen. … We’re in a very good position to pivot.”

In San Jose, the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night on a new ordinance that requires individuals to wear face coverings in situations when they are likely to come in contact with others, the Mercury News reported.

The ordinance requires residents to wear masks inside or while waiting in line to enter any business, while obtaining healthcare services and while waiting for or riding on public transportation.

Residents do not need to use a mask when exercising outside, including while running, biking or hiking.

Officials are hopeful the new order will reduce new infections as the city reopens.

“I really do believe that we’ve got to give everyone every tool possible to ensure that we can manage and reduce the potential spread so that we can get back to work,” San Jose Mayor Liccardo said at a City Council meeting Tuesday night.

The council’s decision comes about a month after similar regulations were put in place in neighboring counties of San Francisco, San Mateo, Alamada and Marin.

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