“Certainly cases are going up,” said California’s director of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly on Friday. Ghaly called this an “early worry” sign and warned that, ahead of what promises to be a hot weekend in much of the state, Californians should not let their guard down.
State and local health experts have been warning for weeks about a potential rise in cases after Labor Day, as people gathered for parties and barbecues. Ghaly said Friday’s numbers could be the first indication of that trend.
The state reported 3,400 new cases on Friday, which marks a slight uptick from recent lows, but the more concerning number is the 14-day rolling average of new cases which has begun to climb ever so slightly in the past few days. It’s up by 100 or so daily cases.
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One variable in the equation is testing volume. There were 99,000 tests reported in the state on Friday. Ghaly said that number had been as high as 180,000 in one day recently and as low as about 50,000 tests last week. Those numbers do have an effect on how many cases are identified but it is unclear, with those swings, what the impact has been.
The swings in testing were attributed to a number of sites being closed because of heat and smoke and also some testing sites seeing lower numbers of appointments due to heat.
Ghaly said there are “early signs” that the state’s progress against the disease is staring to slow. He said it has been two-and-a-half weeks since Labor Day and five weeks since fire evacuations forced some people out of their houses and into more communal settings.
The state’s positivity rate has begun to rise, he said. Likewise, COVID-related related ER visits and new hospitalizations due to the virus are on the rise across the state in the past week.
In the state’s largest county, Los Angeles, health officials there reported this week that the transmission rate — the number of new cases seen for every current case — had risen above 1 for the first time in weeks. When that rate is above 1 said Ghaly, COVID-19 will spread “exponentially.”
Given the current numbers, the state projects an 89% increase in hospitalized COVID patients — from nearly 2,600 patients to more than 4,800 in late October.
Watch Ghaly’s announcement below.