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California’s coronavirus outbreak explodes, forces closures again


SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – California has recorded more than 216,550 COVID-19 cases and nearly 6,000 deaths as cases continue to climb in several parts of the state.

Right now, nearly three-quarters of the state’s 40 million residents live in counties experiencing concerning coronavirus trends, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in his Monday press briefing.

He vowed stepped-up enforcement of health orders and, if things don’t improve, more restrictions.

“In the last seven days, we’ve seen a 45% increase in the total number of cases that have tested positive in the state of California,” Newsom said.

His comments came a day after he ordered bars to close in Los Angeles and six other counties and suggested eight other counties – including Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties in the Bay Area – do the same on their own.

By Monday afternoon, three of the state’s largest — San Diego, Riverside and Sacramento — said they would voluntarily close bars to slow the spread of the virus.

Here in the Bay Area, Contra Costa and Alameda counties delayed planned reopenings due to the outbreak explosion, following in San Francisco’s decision to do so last week.

Newsom said other rollbacks for businesses could come, but did not give any further details.

He also said the state would increase enforcement of its virus-related orders, including the mandate that people wear face coverings in most settings.

“It is incumbent upon all of us to do what we can to lead by example,” Newsom said. “We will be stepping up enforcement in the state of California.”″

Dr. Mark Ghaly, head of the California Health and Human Services Agency, said the state was organizing “strike teams” to help struggling counties avoid an “alarming rate of spread” that could force officials to reimpose a stay-at-home order.

California was the first state to issue a mandatory stay-at-home order in mid-March. Newsom began relaxing restrictions in early May, and the pace accelerated into June.

Retail shopping and restaurant dining now are allowed virtually everywhere, beaches and parks have reopened, and most of the rest of the economy is operating, albeit with restrictions.

California also has greatly ramped up testing for the virus, and Newsom and health officials warned that would bring with it an increase in the number of confirmed cases.

But recently the infection rate and hospitalizations also have increased — admissions to intensive care units are up by more than a third in the last two weeks, Newsom said.

“We don’t like the trend lines,” he said.

Bars were cleared to reopen June 12, about a week before Newsom imposed his statewide mask order earlier this month. And while no county outbreak has been tied specifically to bars, there have been many images and videos circulating on social media showing crowded establishments with patrons failing to keep their distance and wear masks.

Newsom also announced the state may release more inmates to mitigate coronavirus outbreaks in prisons.

The state previously released 3,500 people who were within 150 days of release, and Newsom said officials have identified 3,500 more who could be released under the same criteria.

More than 1,000 of the nearly 2,600 California prisoners who have tested positive for the coronavirus are in San Quentin State Prison in Marin County.

Forty percent of the prisoners there are considered “medically vulnerable,” and 110 of them may be eligible for the earlier release, Newsom said.

On Friday, Marin County, where the prison is located, reversed plans for further relaxing local COVID-19 restrictions Monday due to the uptick in cases among local residents and inmates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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