California officials warn residents to stay indoors as number of cases climbs

With cases of coronavirus surging and the death toll surpassing 100, lawmakers are pleading with cooped-up Californians to spend a second weekend at home to slow the spread of infection.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Saturday that the number of people hospitalized across the state spiked to more than 1,000, and that overnight the number of people admitted to intensive care units doubled from 200 to more than 400. He said the numbers are relatively modest in comparison to the 52,000 confirmed cases in New York, the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak, but the trend could lead to overstretched hospitals in California.

California could see conditions similar to New York, “if we stop practicing physical distancing … if we pull back from our stay-at-home policy … if we go back to our normal routines without bending the curve,” Newsom said while touring a Silicon Valley firm that is refurbishing outdated ventilators for hospitals.

The escalating crisis was underscored by an announcement Saturday that 12 elderly residents of a nursing facility in the Southern California desert city of Yucaipa tested positive for COVID-19. An 89-year-old woman who lived there died from the illness Thursday, according to San Bernardino County public health officials, who said they’re working to test an unspecified number of residents and employees at the facility.

“This outbreak is a signal to anyone in the county who is not taking this pandemic seriously and is resisting complying with public health orders and guidelines that the threat of COVID-19 is very real,” said Dr. Erin Gustafson, the acting county health officer.

Warnings resonate

It has been more than a week since Newsom issued the stay-at-home order for 40 million residents, restricting them from all but essential outside activities such as buying food and including only outdoor exercise such as walking or running near home that doesn’t put them within 6 feet of another person.

However, reports of people packing beaches and hiking trails prompted local governments, including in Sonoma County, to close recreation areas.

Los Angeles this weekend began a three-week shutdown of beaches, piers, beach bike paths and parking lots along with public trails, including one leading to the famous Hollywood sign. Golf courses, tennis courts and skate parks also were shuttered.

The warnings resonated at Venice Beach, which was nearly empty on a sunny Saturday except for a few souls walking by the water and cycling on the bike path. The scene was remarkably different from a week ago, when people packed the famous stretch of sand on the first weekend of the stay-at-home order.

In San Diego, the most popular beaches were blocked with yellow police tape and police were patrolling them to discourage people from congregating there. San Diego County sheriff’s deputies are stressing compliance with the state and county orders but spokesman Ricardo Lopez said scofflaws could face misdemeanor charges carrying a sentence of up to six months in jail.

Over 100 deaths in state

Johns Hopkins University tallied more than ?5,000 California cases Saturday, with at least ?112 deaths.

After a slow start, testing has accelerated rapidly, from about 27,000 on Tuesday to nearly 90,000 by Saturday.

In Los Angeles County - the nation’s most populous with more than 10 million residents - there were over 1,800 cases. Six new deaths were reported on Saturday, raising the county’s death toll to 32.

For most people, the 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.

Regina Olivas, 55, of Los Angeles knows the risks well. She is an operation supervisor at the Angeles Clinic, a noted cancer research and treatment center. Oncology patients can have weakened immune systems, which can make them more vulnerable to serious impacts of infection.

“I’m so inundated with it, I don’t even want to talk about when I go home,” she said of virus concerns. “I live and breathe it.”

Olivas also runs the Santa Monica Mountain Goats, a longtime running group that typically brings together about 30 people.

But in the wake of the outbreak, “we’re doing virtual runs,” said Olivas on Friday as she ran near her Porter Ranch home. “I’m having them run out wherever they want at 7:30 a.m., wherever they can, take a picture, post it. So we’re all running, we’re just not running together.”

“Distancing is what’s going to keep us healthy,” she said.

Fewer people in parks

Light rain in the Bay Area kept people from packing the parks or hiking trails, though it didn’t appear to deter shoppers at the popular farmer’s market at San Francisco’s Ferry Building. Several lines formed around vegetable stands and people stood at least 6 feet apart, heeding signs posted around the market telling them to do just that.

Marin County reported its first death related to the virus on Friday: A man in his 70s who had been a passenger aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship during a February voyage to Mexico. The man died Friday after being hospitalized for nearly three weeks, county health officials said.

Federal officials announced Thursday that two men who had traveled on the ship had died. The other was previously revealed to be a Sonoma County man in his 60s who had chronic health issues.

Thousands of passengers on the vessel were quarantined earlier this month after a passenger from a previous trip died and nearly two dozen passengers and crew tested positive for the virus.

The virus has taken an economic toll as well. Nationwide, more than 3.3 million people have filed for unemployment benefits. About a third of those claims are in California, where thousands of businesses have been forced to close.

Changes for courts

On Saturday, the state’s Judicial Council announced a series of changes to California’s court system in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The council, the rule-making arm of the judicial system, announced several measures that will take effect immediately and extend 90 days after California lifts its state of emergency.

They are:

Extend the the period of 10 court days for holding a preliminary hearing and the defendant’s right of release to 30 court days.

Extend the period in which a defendant charged with a felony shall be taken before a judicial officer from 48 hours to not more than seven days.

Extend the period for holding a criminal trial by more than 30 days.

Extend the period to bring an action to trial by more than 30 days.

The council directed courts to use technology such as video conferences to conduct judicial proceedings and other operations remotely.

The council also told courts to use technology in arraignments and preliminary hearings so that “defendants are not held in custody, and children are not held in custody or removed from the custody of their parents or guardians, without timely due process of law or in violation of constitutional rights.”

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