Merced County to close churches, gyms amid ris­ing cases

Merced Sun-Star - - Front Page - BY AB­BIE LAUTEN-SCRIVNER alaut­ens@mer­ced­

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.

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