Contra Costa County is rejiggering its reopening plans as coronavirus infections rise, following a similar move in San Francisco amid a nationwide spike in infections.
Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano has ordered that a swath of businesses — including indoor dining, movie theaters and religious services — shrink indoor customer capacity from 50% to 25% starting Friday to stem the spread of the virus. Outdoor bars must close outright.
The move came after Contra Costa entered the second-highest orange or “moderate” tier last week along with several other Bay Area counties. Since then, health officials said, cases and hospitalizations have spiked locally — raising concerns that the county could slip back to a more restrictive tier in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s reopening scheme.
Over the past week, Contra Costa’s seven-day case average has risen from about 81 daily average cases to 91, according to data collected by this news organization. Hospitalizations have meanwhile risen to 40 people as of earlier this week, compared to a low point of 17 in mid-October.
A similar uptick in San Francisco — which has reopened faster than any other metropolitan area in the state — likewise prompted officials to scale back on indoor business recently.
The rise in those counties mirrors a statewide trend as California’s 14-day test positivity rate climbed from about 2.6% to 3.3% since late October, according to state data. Hospitalizations have also jumped, with 3,241 patients overall and 823 in the intensive-care unit as of Wednesday — marking increases of nearly 14% and 20% respectively over the past two weeks.
In a virtual Wednesday briefing, California Health and Human Services Director Dr. Mark Ghaly partially credited “pandemic fatigue” with aiding the spread of COVID-19, particularly heading into the holidays where family gatherings and travel could intensify.
For the first time since the color-coded reopening system was unveiled in late August, two California counties moved backward to more stringent tiers while just one progressed forward.
“Many of us feel exhausted, fatigued, and frankly impatient — and that is truly understandable,” Ghaly said.
Nationally, the portrait is even more grim. An average of 91,878 new cases were reported daily over the past week, marking an increase of 51 percent since just two weeks ago, according to the New York Times’ coronavirus data tracker. Weekly infections topped all previous records in more than half the country during the month of October, with cases spiking steeply in the Dakotas, Iowa, Wyoming and Nebraska, among other places.
Overall, cases are rising in about 80% of the nation’s jurisdictions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with an average jump of about 20% since last week. The biggest increases have been in rural areas.