As most of California has moved into Phase 3 of reopening, the state is once again seeing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise dramatically.
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The Department of Public Health has a watch list of counties that are being monitored for worsening coronavirus trends. In each case, the state is working with local health departments to identify the source of the problem and provide assistance as needed.
The following counties are currently on the state’s list for “targeted engagement”:
Los Angeles County: One reason Los Angeles County has nearly half of the state’s COVID-19 cases is because of its huge population and the fact that it’s doing so much testing. Still, the county is being asked to keep a close eye on positivity rates as an indicator that community transmission is on the rise. They’re also testing every resident and staff member at all 235 skilled nursing facilities in the county.
Orange County: On June 29, Gov. Gavin Newsom added Orange County to the list of counties being closely monitored for worsening coronavirus spread. This comes just days after Disney officials announced the delayed reopening of its Anaheim theme parks.
Riverside County: The state has identified five factors contributing to a rise in cases in Riverside County: outbreaks at prisons and nursing homes; large public protests where people weren’t wearing face coverings; patients coming from Imperial County for treatment; patients coming from Northern Baja California for treatment; and an increase in social gatherings. In addition to increasing testing, the county is being told to educate residents on the importance of wearing face coverings.
San Bernardino County: Increase transmissions here are largely attributable to large gatherings, workplaces, nursing homes, jails and prisons, and patients being transferred from Imperial County. The county needs to ramp up testing, contact tracing and “working with labs and employers to increase turn-around time from diagnosis to isolation.” Residents also need to do a better job of wearing face coverings to mitigate spread.
Santa Barbara County: Increased gatherings in the northern part of Santa Barbara County are being blamed for a rise in transmission. Curbing community transmission and increasing contact tracing should help, the state says.
Imperial County: On June 26, Gov. Newsom instructed Imperial County to reinstate a stay-at-home order as the positivity rate approaches 23%. DPH is attributing the problem in Imperial County to two factors: “U.S. citizens coming across the Mexican border seeking healthcare” and inadequate hospital staffing. The county is being asked to ramp up testing, contact tracing, transport patients to hospitals in other counties and create more alternative care sites.
Ventura County: Increased cases in Ventura County have resulted in increased hospitalizations. Officials believe the increase comes from transmissions at large gatherings, in overcrowded housing, at essential workplaces and at nursing homes. They also believe they are detecting more cases since opening more drive-thru testing facilities. Action items for the county include: enhance contact tracing, make sure nursing facilities have protective equipment and continue messaging on social distancing and hygiene.
Contra Costa County: The East Bay county is being monitored due to a rise in hospitalizations that’s correlated with reopening. Contra Costa is being asked to improve messaging on the importance of mask wearing and getting tested, prepare hospitals’ surge capacity, ensure nursing homes have adequate protective equipment and educate people on contact tracing.
Fresno County: Fresno is in trouble for “elevated disease transmission,” especially in skilled nursing facilities and Avenal State Prison. (While the prison is in Kings County, some of its employees live in Fresno and have brought the virus back into the community). Controlling outbreaks at those congregate facilities is key to getting Fresno off the list, DPH says.
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The governor admonished Californians for breaking from social distancing guidelines.
Kern County: Disease transmission and hospitalization are both on the rise in Kern County. The state says it’s because of outbreaks at nursing homes and state prisons, as well as out-of-town patients coming to Kern County hospitals. The county is being asked to increase testing and public awareness of protective equipment to control the spread of the outbreaks from going any further.
Kings County: Not only is there elevated disease transmission and rising hospitalization in Kings County, but hospitals are also getting worryingly close to capacity. An outbreak at Avenal State Prison has spread the virus throughout the community, plus Kings County hospitals have admitted patients from other areas. Action items include getting the prison outbreak under control, as well as making sure hospitals are properly equipped to treat patients and protect staff.
Sacramento County: “Community transmission due to holiday gatherings amongst large families” has landed Sacramento County on the state’s watch list. The county is being asked to increase public messaging about social distancing and face coverings and increase testing in hot spot communities.
San Joaquin County: The problem in San Joaquin County is a rise in hospitalizations and increasingly limited hospital capacity. The suspected drivers of this are increased social gatherings combined with workplace transmissions, the state says. In response, the county is being told to “increase public messaging on the importance of personal protection measures and the risks involved with mass gatherings in multiple languages.”
Santa Clara County: A recent increase in hospitalization landed Santa Clara County on the watch list. “Although the percentage change in hospitalizations shows an increase, the increase in the absolute number of patients hospitalized is low relative to the size of the population in Santa Clara County and is low relative to the number of hospital beds available in the county,” says DPH. The county is working with hospitals to identify if patients are local or coming from other jurisdictions, as well as increasing PSAs in multiple languages about the importance of face coverings and avoiding mass gatherings.
Stanislaus County: Stanislaus County is experiencing an “increase in outbreaks and clusters related to family gatherings, businesses (in and out of county) and healthcare facilities.” Health officials believe people may not be following face covering and social distancing guidelines. The county is also being asked to increase rapid contact tracing in order to isolate positive cases more quickly before they spread widely.
Tulare County: Tulare County is interesting because not only are they reporting more coronavirus transmission, but also “Increased hospitalizations and ICU utilization have been related to multiple conditions other than COVID-19.” Preventing outbreaks at nursing homes and increasing public awareness are two action items for the county.
Solano, Merced and Glenn County have also been added to Gov. Newsom’s watch list.
This story will be updated as counties are added and removed from the list. You can find more information from the California Department of Public Health.
KGO-TV contributed to this report.
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