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Rural hospitalizations lead to statewide shutdown

John Orona
Staff Writer

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday ordered restaurants, bars, movie theaters and a host of other industries statewide to shut down indoor operations amid rising coronavirus hospitalizations across the state, particularly in rural areas.

“The reason we are moving forward today … is we’re starting to see in some rural parts of the state an increase in (intensive care unit) use that is generating some concern,” Newsom said at a press conference.

Over the last several days nearby Placer, Yuba and Sutter counties have been placed on the state’s monitoring list due to increased transmission and hospitalizations coupled with limited hospital capacity. The largest drivers for the increase in those counties were friend and family gatherings.

Newsom on Monday ordered counties on the monitoring list — which does not include Nevada County — to also shut down indoor operations at fitness centers, places of worship, offices at non-critical sectors, malls, and personal care services including hair salons and barbershops.

“I’m not surprised,” said Crista Pfeffer, manager of South Pine Cafe in Grass Valley. “We’ve been watching all the other counties around us closing down.”

The last time the cafe was forced to shut down at the start of the pandemic, its Nevada City location never reopened. The cafe has since used parking spaces to expand its outdoor dining, a move that it will now have to rely on for the foreseeable future.

“It’s definitely going to be taking a toll on our small businesses,” Pfeffer said. “We’re going to have to wait and see, I guess, how much people are willing to order to-go and eat outside.”

According to Newsom, statewide hospitalizations increased by 28% in the last two weeks, with COVID-19 patients making up about 9% of all hospital beds occupied in the state. And now counties on the monitoring list represent an estimated 80% of the state population.

Locally, while cases have continued to climb since mid-June, hospitalization rates have so far remained steady.

“We’ve been seeing patients with COVID-19 here and there at Sierra Nevada, but certainly have not been anything close to overwhelmed. We’ve seen one or two at a time,” Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital CEO Dr. Brian Evans said. “We certainly can do 150% of our average census, in fact, we can do more than that, so we feel fine on that and we are not anywhere close to that at this point in time.”

However, hospitalizations can lag weeks behind an increase in positive cases and transmission spread, interim public health officer Dr. Richard Johnson said last week.

For Pfeffer and the South Pine Cafe, they’re optimistic a recent demand for takeout orders might soften the blow to their business.

“Our hopes are high for that,” she said. “We want people to just support their community and stay safe.”

To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email jorona@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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