It was another troubling week in California, as growing infections and hospitalizations prompted state and local officials to announce new widespread closures of businesses and schools across the state to slow the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic, which is disproportionately ravaging communities of color, has killed at least 7,475 Californians. This week alone, more than 45,000 Californians were reported to have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to state data released Friday morning, bringing the total number of infections in the state to more than 366,000.
More than 6,800 Californians with the virus are currently in a hospital bed, according to the state. About 28 percent of hospitalized patients are in intensive care. There were 44 more COVID-19 patients in intensive care on Thursday compared to the previous day.
“This continues to be a deadly disease,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said during his noon press conference Monday. “This continues to be a disease that puts people in our ICUs and our hospitals. and is currently putting a strain on our hospital system and our ICUs.”
Over the last week as of Friday, about 7.1 percent of all coronavirus tests came back positive — a slight decrease in the rolling average compared a earlier this week. The state’s self-imposed benchmark of keeping the positivity rate at 8 percent or less before reopening the economy.
To curtail the growing virus spread in California, Newsom on Monday ordered the closure statewide of all indoor business at restaurants, wineries, theaters, zoos, museums, card rooms, bars and family entertainment centers.
In addition, shopping malls, gyms, indoor church worship, nail salons and barber shops are also shut down for indoor activity in counties representing about 80 percent of Californians, including Sacramento, Placer, Yolo, Sutter and Yuba counties. The affected counties are those that had been on the state’s monitoring list for troubling coronavirus trends for three or more days.
Economists say the renewed shutdowns will be a devastating setback for businesses that managed to scrape by in the spring during initial stay-at-home orders, and could lead to a resurgence of record-setting unemployment once again.
“Any thought of a V-shaped economic recovery has been nipped in the bud,” Sung Won Sohn, a business economist at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, previously told The Bee. “There is no chance of that at all.”
And on Friday, Newsom announced new rules that could effectively keep a majority of school campuses in California closed through the fall. The announcement comes after local school officials announced public school campuses in Sacramento County would remain closed when instruction resumes in the fall.
The new guidelines leave hundreds of thousands of California families and teachers scrambling to plan for an extension of distance-learning programs. Schools will only be able to reopen after two weeks of declining COVID-19 numbers, and with significant safety measures like mask wearing and frequent testing for staff.
“Conditions are not safe enough for students, staff and families to allow school to open up in person at this time,” said Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools Dave Gordon earlier this week.
More California schools will likely stay closed in fall
Gov. Gavin Newsom handed down stricter guidelines that would limit which school districts can reopen during the coronavirus outbreak and how.
All public and private schools in counties on the state’s COVID-19 watch list — 32 counties in all currently — will be unable to physically reopen their doors this fall. Schools that do reopen during the coronavirus outbreak must require masks for older children, as well as masks and consistent testing for staff.
A district can only open physically after its county experiences a 14-day decline in COVID-19 numbers.
“Learning in the state of California is simply nonnegotiable,” Newsom said during a Friday press conference. “Schools must, and I underscore must, provide meaningful instruction during this pandemic, whether they are physically open or not.”
The announcement means schools across most of the Sacramento region, including Sacramento, Yolo, Placer, Yuba, Sutter and San Joaquin counties, are set to maintain distance learning in the fall.
New COVID-19 shutdowns hammer Sacramento economy
Newsom’s new business shutdown orders are sweeping. Statewide, they include closure of indoor dining, wineries, movie theaters and other venues. The governor also closed hair salons, health clubs, houses of worship, indoor malls and other locations in 29 counties covering the vast majority of the state’s population, including most of the Sacramento area.
All told, the governor’s order represents a serious setback to regional and statewide economies that were just starting to get back on their feet from the original March stay-at-home order.
The timing of Newsom’s order is bad in many respects. The $600 in weekly additional unemployment benefits disbursed by Congress will run out in late July. Many of the hundreds of Sacramento-area companies that received Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans from the U.S. government have burned through their money.
“The expectation was, in a couple of months we as an economy would be back on our feet again, and corona would go away,” said Virginia Varela, chief executive at Golden Pacific Bank in Sacramento, which processed Paycheck Protection loan applications.
Business owners said the psychological toll on their employees might be harder than it was the first time they were furloughed in March.
“There’s a whole different level of disappointment,” said John Pickerel, co-owner of the Buckhorn Grill restaurant chain, where dozens have been furloughed in the past week.
Sacramento’s entry into MLS delayed due to coronavirus
Sacramento Republic FC’s entry into Major League Soccer has been delayed one year due to complications from the coronavirus pandemic.
Given the rising coronavirus cases, a cratered local economy and other uncertainties — such as an indefinite California ban on fans in stadiums — the team and the league agreed the smartest step is to take the time “to launch it the right way,” said Matt Alvarez, a Hollywood producer whose investment group landed an MLS team for Sacramento last fall.
“We are still bullish on soccer, MLS and Sacramento,” Alvarez told The Bee during a Friday phone interview. “We try to keep perspective. We think Major League Soccer has a ton of room for growth. This is a long play for us.”
The team was initially set to enter the league in 2022, with a new 20,000-plus seat stadium in the city’s downtown Railyard redevelopment site.
MLS officials announced Friday they have reached the same one-year postponement agreement with St. Louis, which was also set to enter the league in 2022. Charlotte, which was to begin play in the league in 2021, will wait a year until 2022.
Black, Hispanic Californians struggle to get medical care
The coronavirus pandemic has upended the lives of all Sacramentans, but certain communities — particularly Black, Hispanic and lower-income residents — have been feeling the impacts of COVID-19 more severely.
A new poll published this week and growing consensus among public health experts reveals the widening inequities in the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. A particularly concerning issue for Californians of color: Access to healthcare during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 Resilience Poll found that it’s been more difficult — and in some cases impossible — for Black and Hispanic respondents to secure medicine and health advice, compared to residents of other ethnic groups. While Latinos make up 18.5 percent of the U.S. population, only 5.5 percent of U.S. psychologists said they can provide services in Spanish.
“Prior to COVID-19, our mental health system and access to mental health providers that were culturally, linguistically representative of Latino communities were nonexistent” said Jeff Reynoso, executive director for the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California. “Add on to that, a global pandemic, it’s only going to heighten the need for mental health primary care services.”
Most nursing home staff say a coworker has tested positive
In the latest poll results from the California Health Care Foundation, low-wage nursing home workers overwhelmingly see their workplaces as epicenters of transmission of COVID-19 for themselves, their families and the residents they serve.
Three out of four surveyed workers said they have had known or suspected COVID-19 cases among staff at their facility. About about 60 percent of the respondents said their facility has had an infection among residents — roughly in line with state public health data revealing about 55 percent of the facilities in the state have had a case among residents.
“This is a population and a setting that we need to make sure we’re doing absolutely everything we can to protect,” said Kristof Stremikis, director of market analysis and insight at the California Health Care Foundation. “The data by themselves were just pretty shocking when I saw the numbers.”
The industry, executive vice president with SEIU 2015 Arnulfo De La Cruz said, offers a microcosm for understanding why COVID-19 has so disproportionately affected the poor and people of color in the United States.
“The majority of nursing home workers in California are women and women of color,” De La Cruz said. “The work that our members do who are Black and Latino is essential. They have not had the luxury to shelter in place for the last four months or so. They’ve been showing up and going to work and making sure that California runs.”
California buys 18 million child-sized masks for schools
The state has been sending masks to school districts since the start of the pandemic, and began purchasing child-sized masks last month based on feedback from the districts, said Governor’s Office spokesman Brian Ferguson.
Gov. Gavin Newsom hasn’t issued any statewide guidance on whether schools should reopen their buildings, saying just one approach doesn’t work in a state with more than 1,000 districts serving more than six million children.
The Sacramento County Office of Education announced Wednesday that its 13 districts won’t reopen classrooms this fall. The Los Angeles Unified School District is online for now, while the Orange County Board of Education is planning to hold classes without a mask requirement for students.
The state has issued guidance for how schools may safely reopen, but hasn’t made a final recommendation on masks in schools. State Department of Education guidance says that if districts require students to wear masks, the districts must provide them.
Passenger traffic may plunge again at Sacramento International
Sacramento International Airport saw a deep plunge in spring passenger traffic as the coronavirus pandemic continued to batter air travel.
About 2.9 million fewer passengers boarded and deplaned at Sacramento in the second quarter compared with the same three-month span during a record-breaking 2019, airport figures show.
Sacramento International showed signs of life in May: It doubled the 70,000 total passengers who flew into and out of the airport in April, and again in June, with nearly 300,000 passengers in June.
Now a new surge in coronavirus cases that triggered a new wave this week of state-ordered closures representing 80 percent of the state, including the majority of the Sacramento region, could threaten that trend.
“We had just started to see business pick up in a positive way,” Visit Sacramento CEO Mike Testa said Tuesday.
Lodi nursing home outbreak kills 9 residents, leaves 96 infected
An outbreak at the Arbor Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Lodi has killed nine residents, according to a news release by the nursing home Thursday.
Nearly 100 people tied to the nursing home have been infected with the coronavirus, including 62 residents and 34 staff members. About half the residents have recovered, and about two-thirds of the staff members have recovered, according to the nursing facility.
“In this new world of COVID-19, rest assured we are aggressively treating and responding to potential community exposures by conducting routine testing of all our residents and staff until such time as a vaccine becomes available or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) instructs otherwise,” the company said in a statement Thursday.
San Joaquin County has reported nearly 7,700 coronavirus cases, including 16 outbreaks at different skilled nursing facilities in the county.
Local postal workers, Target employees infected
Seven workers at the U.S. Postal Service processing plant in West Sacramento and “multiple’ employees at a Target in south Sacramento have tested positive for COVID-19.
Both the U.S. Postal Service and Target released limited information about the respective outbreaks. Target declined to state exactly how many employees have been infected.
“We believe the risk is low for employees who work at the Sacramento Processing Plant, but we will keep our employees apprised as new information and guidance becomes available,” Postal Service spokesperson Meiko Patton said in an email.
Latest Sacramento-area numbers: 143 dead, nearly 9,900 infected
The six-county region of Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer, Yolo, Sutter and Yuba has reported 9,896 people infected by the coronavirus as of Friday afternoon, about a 20 percent increase since last Friday. The virus has killed a total of 143 in the region.
Sacramento County reported 116 new cases Friday morning, bringing the total number of confirmed coronavirus infections to 6,511 since the pandemic started. Thus far, the virus has killed 95 people, according to the county’s data dashboard updated Friday morning.
There were 185 COVID-19 patients in Sacramento County hospital beds as of Friday, one more than the previous day. Currently, 59 patients are in intensive care units, according to state public health data.
The city of Sacramento, which accounts for about one-third of the county’s roughly 1.5 million residents, has now surpassed 4,000 cases and has had 53 residents die.
Placer County reported 32 new cases Friday morning, bringing the total number of infections there to 1,235. There are now 51 people hospitalized with the virus, and eight in intensive care. Eleven people have died of COVID-19 in Placer County thus far. The vast majority of cases, about 80 percent, have originated from the south Placer area including Roseville, Rocklin and Lincoln.
Yolo County on Wednesday evening reported 24 new COVID-19 cases and one additional death due to the respiratory disease. The county has reported a total of 1,023 cases and 30 deaths. The county on Tuesday reported 33 new cases and one death. About one in ten infections have been linked to outbreaks at six long-term care facilities in Yolo County, resulting in 106 people infected. Stollwood Convalescent Hospital’s outbreak, which was first reported in April, has accounted for 17 deaths.
El Dorado County on Thursday afternoon reported 18 new COVID-19 cases for a total of 381 cases since the pandemic began. Of those, 171 remain active cases, with two people hospitalized, both in intensive care. Nearly half of the county’s cases have been reported in the Lake Tahoe region. The county has not reported any deaths related to COVID-19, but has seen case totals climb faster in the past few weeks. On Wednesday, the county reported 13 new cases, the same number of new cases it reported Tuesday.
North of the four-county capital region, Sutter County reported 17 new COVID-19 cases Thursday night, for a total of 471 confirmed infections. Of those, 11 are in the hospital. The county has a total of four fatalities, but no new deaths were reported Thursday.
Yuba County reported 6 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday night for a total of 236 cases. Of those, five are in the hospital. Three have died in the county thus far, but no new deaths were reported Thursday. The county reported a death from COVID-19 on Saturday; the first of the pandemic came in early April.
In the Yuba-Sutter area, about a third of the patients testing positive showed no symptoms of the virus, based on local public health data reported.
World numbers: Death toll over 590,000, more than 13.8 million infected
Over 13.8 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 worldwide and more than 590,000 have died as of Friday morning, according to data maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
About one-quarter of each — about 3.6 million infections and over 138,000 deaths — have come in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins.
After the U.S., the coronavirus has hit hardest in Brazil, where over 2 million have tested positive and more than 76,000 have died.
Next by death toll are the United Kingdom at more than 45,000, Mexico at 37,500, Italy at over 35,000, France at just over 30,000 and Spain at more than 28,000, according to Johns Hopkins.
What is COVID-19? How is the coronavirus spread?
Coronavirus is spread through contact between people within 6 feet of each other, especially through coughing and sneezing that expels respiratory droplets that land in the mouths or noses of people nearby.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s possible to catch the disease COVID-19 by touching something that has the virus on it, and then touching your own face, “but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”
Symptoms of the virus that causes COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath, which may occur two days to two weeks after exposure.
Most people develop only mild symptoms, but some people develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal. The disease is especially dangerous to the elderly and others with weaker immune systems.
The Sacramento Bee’s Cathie Anderson, Tony Bizjak, Kim Bojórquez, Marcos Bretó n, Michael Finch II, Dale Kasler, Sawsan Morrar, Andrew Sheeler, Darrell Smith, Wes Venteicher and Hannah Wiley contributed to this story.