As the end of July approaches, California continues to hit a grim and unwelcome milestone: its deadliest two weeks of the coronavirus pandemic.
On July 16, California added another 119 victims to its COVID-19 death count, the state’s third straight day with more than 100 fatalities. It’s the second time in just two weeks that California experienced such a high death rate.
Cases and their related deaths are steadily rising, especially in the state’s hardest-hit county, Los Angeles, which reported 4,459 positive tests just on Thursday. An overall state total of 9,734 new cases on Thursday accounted for California’s fourth-highest number of cases in a single day.
In fact, the California coronavirus case count is now 38% higher than it was two weeks ago. What is happening in California to cause such a surge, and how are state leaders responding?
Lockdown Guidelines Reimposed
In mid-July, California Governor Gavin Newsom made headlines when he ordered an immediate halt to all indoor activities at restaurants, bars, gyms, entertainment venues, zoos and museums.
Newsom reverted to his state’s previous lockdown measures in response to a 20% rise in positive COVID-19 tests in his state, plus an increasing number of Californians needing intensive care for severe coronavirus treatment.
Governor Newsom Sets Guidelines For School Reopenings
On July 17, Governor Newsom announced that schools will be permitted to physically reopen this fall, but only if they’ve been off the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list for a full 14 days.
Any schools that find themselves on the state’s monitoring list must start the fall semester with distance learning. Some districts, including the L.A Unified School District, have preemptively decided to open with distance learning for the new academic school year.
For schools that do reopen, students and staff must follow specific guidelines:
- All students in third grade and above must wear a face mask
- K-2 students are encouraged to wear masks or face shields
- Staff must maintain at least six feet of distance from other staff and students
- Daily symptom checks
- New hand washing and sanitation stations
- Precise quarantine protocol
- Continuity and attendance plans
According to Newsom, California school districts will be forced to close all of their schools at any point throughout the school year if 25% of their schools must close due to COVID-19 within a 14-day period.
Why Are Infections Surging in California?
There’s no clearly defined explanation for the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases throughout California, though some public health experts believe numerous large gatherings without the use of face masks caused a high rate of transmission that’s now difficult to stop.
Small clusters of cases are much easier to contain by isolating those who are infected, notifying those who are exposed,” said Dr. Lee Riley, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Berkeley. “What we’re seeing in California is a lost opportunity to reopen carefully.”