California virus hospitalizations could surge in next month

FILE - In this April 1, 2020, file photo, Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services, gestures to a chart showing the impact of the mandatory stay-at-home orders, during a news conference in Rancho Cordova, Calif. Dr. Ghaly urged state residents to renew their efforts to prevent spread of the coronavirus amid some troubling trends, Friday, Sept. 25, 2020. Ghaly said infection rates are rising in some areas and one state model projects hospitalizations, now at their lowest level since early April, could increase nearly 90% in the next month. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool, File)
FILE - In this April 1, 2020, file photo, Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services, gestures to a chart showing the impact of the mandatory stay-at-home orders, during a news conference in Rancho Cordova, Calif. Dr. Ghaly urged state residents to renew their efforts to prevent spread of the coronavirus amid some troubling trends, Friday, Sept. 25, 2020. Ghaly said infection rates are rising in some areas and one state model projects hospitalizations, now at their lowest level since early April, could increase nearly 90% in the next month. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California has begun to see concerning upticks in coronavirus data after a sustained period of decline, the state's top health official said Friday, urging people to renew efforts to prevent spread.

The increases include the rate of cases per capita, hospital emergency department visits for COVID-19 and new hospitalizations for confirmed or suspected cases, California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly said.

The trends appear to be attributable to gatherings and activities around the Labor Day holiday, Ghaly said. Other factors could include the recent reopening of businesses and massive wildfires that forced evacuations and millions to change their routines because of unhealthy air.

A troubling short-term forecast sees an 89% increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations from the current 2,578 — the lowest figure since early April — to just under 5,000 by Oct. 25, Ghaly said. An added concern is the upcoming flu season.

Ghaly noted that the state was heading into another hot weekend, which could lead to more people congregating with others and providing more opportunities for transmission of the virus.

“I think our key message today is continue to do what helped us get to a lower risk. safer, lower transmission environment across our state,” he said.

Ghaly urged people to wear face coverings, maintain physical distancing, avoid mixing with others, get a flu shot and to “use good judgment.”

“All of those tools that we have in our toolkit should be used this weekend and moving forward so we can really bring these upward trends back down, and even bring them further down,” he said.