The number of coronavirus cases in California has reached nearly 200, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday, with public health officials saying many more people are likely infected.
County health officials think there has been significant spread in some communities, but the total numbers are difficult to determine because so few people have been tested.
“I now have evidence of widespread community transmission of COVID-19 in San Mateo County,” Scott Morrow, the county’s public health officer, said in a statement.
“The only way to slow the spread ... in the light of having community transmission is to have everything in our society grind to a halt for an extended period of time, as you have seen done in other countries. All actions have consequences.”
Here is a rundown of what we know:
— California is calling for the cancellation of all gatherings with 250 or more people to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
— The new policy will be in effect at least through March, marking the first time the state has issued a request for all residents across the state to adopt so-called social distancing measures and represents a new sense of urgency in the administration’s approach to fighting the virus in a state with 198 confirmed cases as of Thursday morning.
— In recent days, counties including Santa Clara, Sacramento and San Francisco have shifted from aggressively tracking and tracing every known contact of a confirmed COVID-19 patient to asking residents to avoid congregating in large groups. Some counties have warned the elderly and people with underlying health conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, chronic liver disease, blood disorders and other conditions, to remain at home as much as possible.
— An increasing number of both public and private colleges are going online-only.
— The move to online education at some of California’s biggest public higher education institutions poses a particular challenge for a large number of underserved students. Across the Cal State system’s 23 campuses, more than half the enrolled students are the first in their families to pursue bachelor’s degrees, and a slightly lower percentage receive federal Pell Grants.
— At the K-12 level, the largest school district in Northern California, Elk Grove, has been closed this week. Several San Francisco and Bay Area schools have also closed. The private Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles said it will close both its campuses until March 27, with online instruction beginning Monday.
No Los Angeles Unified School District campus had been closed as of Wednesday. But all large student and staff gatherings have been canceled. Student competitions and sports games will continue “without spectators,” LAUSD officials said.
— The Los Angeles City Council will impose a sweeping reduction in the number of public meetings at City Hall. The council will go from three meetings per week to one for the remainder of the month. Also canceled: all council committee meetings, which are devoted to such topics as public safety, planning and the city budget.
— On Tuesday, the California Legislature said it didn’t see a need to curtail activities. But that was before the statewide gathering prohibition was announced by the governor.