California to resume pending surgeries amid outbreak; a first step toward reopening


indica News Bureau-

A day after California Governor, Gavin Newsom relaxed his stay-at-home order, the state suffered the most number of deaths in a single day of the COVID-19 emergency. Newsom made the somber announcement that Wednesday had marked the deadliest day for COVID-19 patients with 115 additional deaths confirmed.

The new deaths were an 8.5 percent increase from the day before.  Gov. Newsom had announced on Wednesday to let hospitals resume elective surgeries. The step was considered as the first step toward reopening the nation’s most populous state that has been shut down for more than a month because of the coronavirus pandemic. This move will send many thousands of idled health care employees back to work as the state takes a cautious first step toward restarting the world’s fifth-largest economy. Newsom’s order took effect immediately and left it up to local governments and individual hospitals to determine how and how soon to resume elective surgeries for heart and cancer patients, among others.

Newsom gave no date for when businesses could reopen and people could return to work, saying that would depend on the state’s ability to build a more robust testing system “that is more inclusive.” So far, California has tested more than 465,000 people, or just over 1% of the state’s nearly 40 million residents. Hospitals had stopped performing elective surgeries to make beds available for an expected surge of coronavirus patients. But an expected surge hasn’t happened.

Cases continue to grow in California. On the positive side, Newsom said that for the first time both hospitalization and ICU cases were down, with hospitalizations dropping 4.4 percent and ICU cases dropping 1.2 percent. 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.

Newsom said decisions on when to more broadly reopen California will be based “first and foremost” on public health.

He said that at least 465,327 Californians have been tested for this coronavirus so far, but he acknowledged that the state’s testing capacity is still coming online and remains inadequate to lift a statewide stay-at-home order and other social distancing restrictions.

“We’re not prepared to do that today,” he said. “I very much look forward to making those announcements. And we won’t wait week-to-week to make those announcements. When we’re ready, we’ll make those announcements in real time.”

“I wish I can prescribe a specific date to say, ‘Well, we can turn on the light switch and go back to normalcy,’ ” Newsom said. “We have tried to make it crystal clear that there is no light switch and there is no date in terms of our capacity to provide the kind of clarity that I know so many of you demand and deserve.”

Most people in the state have followed the stay-at-home order, but there are signs of unrest. On Monday, hundreds of people protested business closures at the state Capitol, and on Wednesday there was a small but boisterous protest at City Hall in Los Angeles.

Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle said Newsom’s plan for reopening needs to be “accelerated for rural communities where the impact is not proportional to the number of reported infections.”

“The timeline for Los Angeles is not our timeline,” said Dahle, who represents 11 counties in the northeast corner of the state.

But even in Los Angeles County, the nation’s largest with 10 million residents and the epicenter for California’s virus outbreak, there are hopeful signs that have officials considering reopening golf courses and florist shops, and perhaps resuming thoroughbred racing — without fans — at Santa Anita Racetrack.

“I can’t play God and say yes or no,” Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Kathryn Barger told The Associated Press. The county must “weigh all the facts surrounding each business and determine whether or not it’s going to compromise where we are in terms of slowing the spread” of the virus.

Newsom announced that Trump said the federal government would provide 100,000 swabs needed for tests this week, 250,000 next week and even more a third week. He also said Abbott Laboratories is going to have 1.5 million antibody tests to survey communities to find out who was previously infected to help authorities better determine the prevalence.

California now is testing about 16,000 people per day with a goal of 25,000 by May and ultimately 60,000 and 80,000 per day, Newsom said.

When testing reaches the much higher number, health officials expect to find 2,000 to 3,000 new cases a day and will have to track down between 30,000 and 35,000 of those people’s contacts.

The governor said the state has experience tracking down infected people, noting it has done so with tuberculosis, measles and HIV.

“We’re not starting our tracing program from scratch,” Newsom said. “The question that’s asked of us now is to do it at a scale that we have not seen.”

For weeks, both Democratic and Republic governors have publicly chided the Trump administration for a slow rollout of tests and bristled at claims that the test supply was enough to move toward restarting the economy.

Newsom also acknowledged another shortfall in California. The state has “struggled” to provide testing to communities spread out across the vast expanse of rural California and to people of color, who live in dense urban areas.

He called the issue “vexing and frustrating” and announced plans to open 86 centers to service people who are living in what he called  “testing deserts.” COVID-19

Newsom also warned the state’s residents that, with weather forecasts indicating another warm and sunny weekend, now was not the time to rebel against the stay-at-home order.

“Look, we’re walking into a very warm weekend, the most beautiful weekend to the extent you love warm weather, since January, or arguably since last summer in the state of California. And that means people are prone to want to go the beaches, parks, playgrounds, and go on a hike” Newsom said. “And I anticipate there’ll be a significant increase in volume. But I also think that if there is, and people aren’t practicing physical distancing, I’ll be announcing in a week or so these numbers going back up. I don’t think anybody wants to hear that.”

“As this disease continues to spread, we must continue to spread vigilance,” he concluded.