Coronavirus spike: Epidemiologists explain what's helping and hurting COVID-19 containment

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ByKate Larsen KGO logo
Thursday, June 25, 2020
Experts explain what's helping and hurting COVID-19 containment
Governor Newsom announced during a news conference on Wednesday that there was a new spike in novel coronavirus cases in California.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Governor Newsom announced during a news conference on Wednesday that there was a new spike in novel coronavirus cases in California.

"Remember, COVID-19 didn't take summer recess," said Governor Newsom.

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Newsom warned that since Sunday, new coronavirus cases have increased 69% and patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have gone up 29% in the past two weeks.

Testing is also up to 96,000 in a 24 hour period, which is a new record. But, the rate of positive tests, which were on a steady decline since April, is heading back up, currently at 5.3%.

"It is our behaviors that are leading to these numbers and we are putting people's lives at risk," said Gov. Newsom.

"This is getting much worse," said Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist for Federation of American Scientists, a policy institute in Washington D.C.

"Right now we're reopening at a higher level than we were ever at," said Feigl-Ding. "If you were to choose between economic shutdown of businesses and schools, versus simply wearing masks 95% of the time for everyone, I think the choice is pretty clear. But we didn't do the shutdown well and the mask compliance is woefully inadequate."

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One thing that has gone well, at least in the Bay Area according to experts, is contact tracing.

"Rather than testing people at random, we're actually going into neighborhoods and setting up testing centers where most of the transmission is going on. So we're doing a better job finding cases," said Dr. George Rutherford, a professor of epidemiology at UCSF.

Rutherford is in charge of training thousands of Californians to track down COVID cases and says they've confirmed, "that the disease is concentrated in neighborhoods, it's being transmitted principally in densely populated households."

"You can look on a map and almost see where those are right now. It's the Canal District in San Rafael, and the Mission in the city, and the Fruitvale in Oakland," said Rutherford.

"Contact tracing is working because we can find people who are infected and infectious and get them isolated," said Rutherford.

Dr. Rutherford and Dr. Feigl-Ding answered a few more important questions about the recent surge in cases.

"We have not yet begun to see cases from businesses opening back up," said Rutherford.

"The protests were not the drivers of this new surge," said Feigl-Ding.

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