Newsom: More testing leads to higher case totals, but it’s other stats that concern experts

Coronavirus

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged Wednesday that more testing has contributed to higher totals of coronavirus cases reported in California — but it’s other trend lines that are concerning state health experts.

Newsom’s argument comes as President Donald Trump repeatedly refers to increased testing as a “double-edged sword” because it reveals a higher total of cases.

While refraining from referring to the president directly, Newsom started his Wednesday news conference by acknowledging the broader argument around testing and its impact on public health data.

“That’s absolutely true. We not only had a record number of positive cases yesterday … we also had a record number of tests,” Newsom said. But it’s an increase in two other metrics — positivity rate and hospitalizations — that are making him truly concerned, the governor said.

Positivity rate refers to the percentage of total tests administered that resulted in positive coronavirus cases. In that metric Newsom, said the state has seen a rise in recent 14-day periods from 4.6% to 5.1%. Over the past seven-day period, the rate reached 5.6%.

“Each decimal point is profoundly impactful,” the governor said.

The number of people getting treated in the hospital has also trended upward. As of Wednesday, 4,095 people were hospitalized for the virus in California. That represents a 29% increase over the past two weeks, Newsom said, including a considerable spike in recent days.

So while the state’s rise in total cases — from 4,230 on June 21 to 5,019 on June 22 and then 7,149 on June 23 — can be explained partially as a result of expanded testing, Newsom said it’s clear that California has a long way to go before residents can let their guard down.

The governor urged people to wash their hands, wear a mask and to take social distancing guidelines seriously. And “we haven’t been sitting on our hands,” Newsom said, of the government’s preparations for another surge of cases.

The state is continuing to expand its network of contact tracing workers (people who help track outbreaks by determining who a sick person came into contact with), and the governor said California has vastly more hospital capacity and ventilators than it had at the start of the pandemic.

President Trump has remained steadfast in his contention that expanded testing makes the U.S. look like it’s in worse shape that it is in handling the pandemic.

At a rally last week, Trump suggested he had even told officials to “slow the testing down.” Aides said the president was “joking” and Dr. Anthony Fauci said in congressional testimony this week that he was aware of no such order, though the president has not walked back the statement.

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