Sacramento, California. California has lifted its stay-at-home order for 13 northern counties while improving hospital conditions, but most of the state’s residents are still subject to tight restrictions amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday, the state lifted the matter in the Sacramento area – in a rare turn of good news as the country goes through what Gov. Gavin Newsom described as “the most intense wave of the spread of the Coronavirus”.
The order imposed on December 10 banned gatherings outside the family and restricted many businesses. As virus cases and hospitalizations stabilize, the area can resume outdoor dining and worship services, reopen hair and nail salons and other businesses, and increase capacity at retailers. Gatherings are allowed for up to three families.
Newsom, a Democrat, made the announcement on social media – reminding people to wear masks and stay home as much as possible. He made a hopeful promise: “There is light at the end of this tunnel.”
Three of the state’s five regions – the San Francisco Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, and Southern California – are still under home stay because the intensive care capacity of their hospitals is so limited.
California has seen a spike in cases, hospitalizations and deaths since Thanksgiving.
Newly reported cases over the past seven days in the United States’ most populous state have far outstripped Texas and Florida – America’s second and third most populous states. However, over the past seven days, the average daily rate of new cases in California per 100,000 people has been lagging behind Arizona, Rhode Island, and ties with Oklahoma.
The state has an average of 42,000 newly reported cases of the virus per day and there were 3,500 virus deaths reported in the past week. On Monday, the death toll from the pandemic exceeded 30,000.
Health officials have warned that increases in hospitalization and deaths are likely to continue as people who have contracted the virus worsen during the holidays.
In an effort to screen for the virus, California is moving more quickly to distribute vaccines. Newsom set a goal last week to deliver 1 million doses by Friday. A state advisory board met on Tuesday to discuss new federal guidelines urging the immediate start of inoculating a wider group.
Newsom imposed its first statewide stay-at-home order in March. It was lifted in the spring when the issues fell but the summer hike led to more restrictions.
The massive increase in late fall prompted the Newsom administration to split the state into five regions in December and enforce a stay-at-home order in four regions when their ICU capacity fell below 15%. Only rural Northern California has remained out of order.
ICU capacity in the Sacramento area is 9.4% but is expected to rise above 15% over the next four weeks, prompting the country to raise demand. The area includes El Dorado County, home to Lake Tahoe, a tourist hot spot that has drawn large holiday crowds despite restrictions.
Newsom and Dr.Mark Galley, California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, have credited the state’s order at home to reducing the severity of the outbreak, but some experts question how much benefit has been obtained.
“What was meant by the stay-at-home orders was to keep families who didn’t live together separate. Instead, over the past few months, you’ve had people come together.” Said Dr. Brad Bullock, UCLA Davis School of Medicine dean for Public Health Sciences, “You have had small social gatherings indoors.” “I wouldn’t say the stay-at-home orders were pointless, but they probably didn’t have much of an effect on what really happened with the transmission patterns.”
Supervisor Mike Zigenmayr of Sutter County, Sacramento, acknowledged this when he responded to the raising.
“It’s exciting, but at the same time, who is sticking to it?” He said.
Sean Harris, a city councilor in Yuba City, said he was surprised by Newsom’s lifting of the matter, describing it as “small steps back to their old normal.” But he encouraged people to “take COVID very seriously, take precautions seriously (and) adhere to them.”
“They gave us an inch. We don’t want to go a mile and be greedy.”
Meanwhile, the country continued its campaign to administer nearly 1.5 million doses of vaccine by Friday, still a fraction of what is needed for herd immunity in the case of nearly 40 million people. Several counties have announced that they will open mass vaccination sites, including Dodger Stadium, Disneyland and Cal Expo, an outdoor venue in Sacramento.
But the rapidly ramping up of vaccinations, including through new rules by the federal government, has brought more confusion and diversified the boycott’s approach.
California has focused on vaccinating healthcare workers and nursing home residents first, with people over the age of 75 and those at risk of contracting the virus at work, such as teachers or agricultural workers, at the next level.
But the federal government has said that vaccinations should be available to anyone over 65 and younger with certain health conditions. Orange County said it will move quickly to vaccinate people 65 and over.
The state’s Community Vaccine Advisory Committee meeting became tense as groups discussed expanding the vaccine pool beyond state guidelines.
“By definition, moving millions of people forward in one line, by definition, means millions of others are further afield,” said Mitch Steiger, California Trade Union statutory attorney.
While he said the arguments were logical, he was unable to support the return of essential workers, realizing for its members that this meant “more of you will get sick, more of you will die.”
Dr. Michael Wasserman, president of the California Society for Long-Term Care Medicine, expressed concern that the state might go ahead without ensuring that workers and residents of nursing homes, assisted living and group homes are protected first, while others have expressed similar concerns that the rush may lead Aging vaccination is to leave behind workers or those who live in disadvantaged and hard-to-reach communities.
“You definitely hit the gas pedal, but don’t leave us behind,” said Charles Bache of the California Association of Health Plans, even as he advocated focusing on older residents. “We cannot lose sight of that.”
Associated Press writers Jenny Har in San Francisco, Amy Thaksin in Orange County, and Don Thompson and Adam Beam in Sacramento contributed to this.
This story was corrected to show that the San Joaquin Valley, not the entire Central Valley, is still under a stay-at-home order.
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