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California warns of virus uptick, names vaccine ethics panel

Scientist was preparing to test a patient’s sample for COVID-19., Photo Date: 2020

California has seen an uptick in coronavirus-related hospitalizations and intensive care admissions in the last two weeks.

Posted: Oct 27, 2020 4:23 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California has seen an uptick in coronavirus-related hospitalizations and intensive care admissions in the last two weeks, prompting renewed warnings Tuesday from Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state’s top health official even as newly confirmed cases remain well below the recent surge across much of the nation.

While officials set up a panel that will determine who gets vaccinated once one is available, progress remained such that the state allowed seven more counties to advance to fewer business restrictions under its four-tier color-coded system. Still, three big Southern California counties including Los Angeles remain mired in the most restrictive purple category with widespread transmissions.

Los Angeles County’s health department issued an official public health advisory and a set of safety tips aimed at fans of baseball’s LA Dodgers ahead of Tuesday night’s World Series game six against the Tampa Bay Rays. It included a set of safety tips urging fans to celebrate at home or take particular precautions if they gather in groups.

The county’s public health director on Monday said fans gathering to watch and celebrate professional sports appear to have contributed to an increase in average daily cases in October from about 940 per day to nearly 1,200 per day.

The county said Tuesday that contact tracing over the last three weeks found 55% of those who knew of a possible exposure to the coronavirus had attended an event or gathering where two or more people were sick.

Statewide, hospitalizations increased 4.7% over the last 14 days and intensive care cases are up 5.9% over the same period. That contrasts with more than a month of double-digit declines in both categories after the state retrenched this summer and began what officials call a “slow and stringent” approach to reopening businesses.

“Now you’re seeing modest increases as we reverse that a little bit,” Newsom said. “We’re watching this closely.”

The numbers are still well below where the state had been when cases spiked this summer, and there is ample treatment capacity, he said.

As one result, seven of the state’s 58 counties advanced to allowing more businesses to reopen with fewer restrictions because they have reduced virus transmissions, increased testing and maintained hospital capacity.

Glenn and Mendocino counties moved from the most restrictive purple category to red.

Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties moved from red, which means there is “substantial” transmission, to the orange “moderate” category.

And Calaveras County moved to the least restrictive yellow tier.

The state recently said it will work more intensively with Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties to help some of the state’s most populous counties advance out of the most restrictive category, but they have shown little progress.

The state also is naming a new 16-member ethics advisory task force to help develop standards for how an anticipated early limited supply of vaccines would be distributed.

The new task force adds to a recently named task force of experts from the state’s top universities that Newsom said must sign off on the safety of any federally approved vaccine before it can be distributed in California.

Washington, Oregon and Nevada announced Tuesday that they have joined California’s “scientific safety review workgroup” and will lend their own experts to sign off on the safety of any vaccine before it is made available to the public in any of the Western states.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health and human services secretary, said the goal of the expert advisory panels is not to delay distribution of the vaccines, but to speed them in part by building community trust.

The related ethics panel, Ghaly said, will “really talk about some of those hard questions about when we only have handfuls of doses, who should get them.”

Newsom said he plans to highlight on Friday a new testing agreement worth up to $1.4 billion with Massachusetts-based diagnostics company PerkinElmer that he previously said will double the state’s virus testing capacity and speed results while substantially reducing cost.

Kaiser Health News, meanwhile, reported Alameda and San Francisco counties have ended their ties with another company, Google-affiliated Verily, after the state announced $55 million in contracts with the firm in March.

County officials cited privacy concerns and complaints that money intended to ensure testing in poor and underserved communities was instead going to wealthier areas.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3095814

Reported Deaths: 35549
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles104602114641
San Bernardino2587421561
Riverside2558082739
San Diego2197312222
Orange2178492546
Santa Clara959361158
Kern87240572
Fresno83591968
Sacramento816871128
Alameda69107842
Ventura63413462
San Joaquin58843788
Contra Costa53349460
Stanislaus43392773
Tulare42186515
Monterey36464255
San Mateo33207309
San Francisco29665274
Solano26191108
Santa Barbara25405243
Imperial25380486
Merced24570316
Sonoma24262242
Kings19588148
Placer17584186
San Luis Obispo16056140
Madera13585151
Santa Cruz12461113
Marin11732159
Yolo10852138
Shasta9750123
Butte9582128
El Dorado788649
Sutter782879
Napa773145
Lassen519916
San Benito504246
Yuba499627
Tehama433244
Tuolumne340340
Nevada323874
Mendocino319232
Amador303631
Lake264631
Humboldt245825
Glenn195520
Colusa17969
Calaveras163723
Siskiyou145713
Mono11244
Inyo98329
Del Norte8672
Plumas5895
Modoc3853
Mariposa3464
Trinity3044
Sierra820
Alpine730
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