The next two weeks are shaping up to be critical for California as officials wait to see if the sweeping restrictions imposed in late June and July show any signs of slowing the rapid spread of coronavirus in communities across the state.
This week was marked by a series of grim milestones as California shattered a one-day record for new coronavirus cases — more than 11,000 on Tuesday — as well as rising infection rates and growing numbers of hospitalizations. Because the coronavirus can take weeks to incubate, much of the current surge is still tied to people exposed to the virus in June, as counties rapidly reopened the economy and many returned to old but now dangerous routines such as bar-hopping and attending parties and other social events. Many also returned to workplaces that didn’t implement new safety protocols.
The big question now is whether Californians changed their behavior enough in July to reduce infection rates. Officials began raising alarms in the days before the July 4 holiday and over the last few weeks have closed bars, indoor dining, shopping malls, gyms and other retail establishments in many areas.
“It’s kind of in everybody’s hands right now,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of public health for L.A. County. “We don’t have a lot of time, though. At some point, you turn that corner where you’re actually expecting hospitals to provide way more care than is possible.”
On June 28, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered bars shut in L.A. County and several others, and a day later, Ferrer warned of “alarming increases in cases, positivity rates and hospitalization.” By July 1, Newsom ordered indoor restaurant dining and bars closed in 19 counties, affecting 72% of the state’s population.