Merced County to close churches, gyms amid rising cases
Merced County reported 198 new coronavirus infections Monday, raising its tally to 2,082 total infections since the pandemic began, according to the County Department of Public Health.
The numbers are the latest the county has reported since Friday, and includes test results from Saturday through Monday.
The county’s first infection was reported March 22.
Also Monday, active cases serious enough to require patient hospitalization rose to 37. According to California Department of Public Health data, Merced County hospitalizations have risen by 27.4% over the past three days and available ICU beds are low at just 15%.
The consistently rising numbers and severity of daily COVID-19 infections locally, statewide and nationally foreshadowed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Monday announcement that many sectors of California’s economy must again shut down operations.
Statewide, all counties are now required to close restaurants for indoor dining, wineries, theaters, zoos, museums, card rooms, bars and family entertainment centers.
Counties like Merced that have been on the state’s watch list of regions with concerning coronavirus demographics for more than three days are subject to even further restrictions.
Those on the list, which now includes 30 counties, again must shutter indoor church worship, shopping malls, gyms and nail salons. The state-mandated limitations affect about 80% of Californians, according to the governor.
The wave of closures hit Merced County as it enters its second week of state-mandated limits for bars and indoor
for other businesses, like restaurants. The county is on a three week countdown that began July 3 to get its COVID-19 numbers back under minimum thresholds defined by the CDPH.
Officials have said that if counties fail to bring their caseload down, the state may step in with even more restrictions.
But new rounds of clocial’s sures, like those Monday, have continued to roll out regardless. Plus, last Friday CDPH ordered youth sports and activities in Merced County to cease.
No new coronavirus outbreaks at workplaces were reported by County Public Health Monday, but a spokesperson said an updated list will be released soon. Increasing infections have surpassed local Public Health offioperations ability to speedily track the source of disease transmission.
As of Monday, 1,000 area cases are under investigation by contact tracers to track the infection’s transmission origin. Officials told the Sun-Star last week that County Public Health is behind on case investigation by about 300 cases and data entry by about two weeks.
Due to the overwhelming number of cases, County Public Health recently suspended active case management. The department no longer is clearing individual infections or accurately tracking recoveries, meaning the active case counts is an estimate.
Monday, cases presumed active continued to climb, reaching 1,130 total. Active cases are now defined as new infections confirmed within the last two weeks.
Also on the rise is the county’s positive case rate, meaning the percentage of those being screened for COVID-19 who actually test positive for the disease. State data (a seven day average with a seven day lag) reports Merced County’s rate at 15.9% — well above the state minimum of 8%.
Comparatively, statewide the rate has risen to about 7.7% over the last seven days.
Deaths related to the virus remained at 12 Monday. The most recent fatality was reported July 8.