California’s COVID-19 numbers may be declining, but the state is still far from being safe to reopen

Media Contacts
Emily Rusch

Vice President and Senior Director of State Offices, The Public Interest Network


OAKLAND, Calif. — After a long stretch of worsening COVID-19 metrics, California is reporting declining numbers of hospitalizations and case rates this week. San Diego, Santa Cruz and Placer counties have been removed from the County Monitoring List and the state reports it is “actively reassessing” Gov. Gavin Newsom’s July 13 order to close indoor dining, movie theaters, wineries and more. 

The governor’s own metrics require that to get off the watchlist, counties must meet criteria including a rate of fewer than 100 cases per 100,000 population over the past 14 days, a positive test rate of less than 8 percent over the past seven days, and a less than 10 percent increase in COVID hospitalizations over the past three days. 

Unfortunately, based on the experience of other countries and the recommendations of public health experts, we are concerned that these metrics don’t represent effective suppression of the virus. 

In our new blog post, “What went wrong with the first shutdown?” CALPIRG Public Health Campaigns Director Matt Wellington notes that California’s peak daily case average is more than double the peak daily average case rate in Italy, the former epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe. Italy didn’t end its shutdown until it lowered its daily rates to 1 case per 100,000 people and 2.5 percent test positivity.

Emily Rusch, CALPIRG Executive Director, issued the following statement in response:

“California is far from being out of the woods in regards to the COVID-19 outbreak, and the state should not further reopen until key public health metrics are met.

We didn’t stick with California’s first shutdown until the job was done. COVID-19 case growth was slow in our state until May, when the state began lifting restrictions on high-risk businesses. The effects of reopening became clear three weeks later, as the number of cases skyrocketed. Other countries that waited to end their shutdowns until they met the targets for positive cases and daily case rates successfully flattened the curve and have largely contained new outbreaks.

State leadership has fallen short in many places, including here in California, where in addition to testing delays and contact tracing failures, we’ve had inaccurate data. Needless deaths and suffering will only continue, and may even be exacerbated, if California implements any reopening measures at this time. Let’s not repeat the mistakes we made just a few months ago — Gov. Newsom needs to shut the state back down, start over, and do it right this time.”

CALPIRG’s full analysis, “What went wrong with the first COVID-19 shutdown?” can be found here.