As Precautionary Sequestering & Business Closure Mandates End, SBC COVID-19 Cases Surge

Two-and-a-half weeks into the loosening of restrictions imposed by the State of California and San Bernardino officials relating to public movement and commercial enterprises that by their nature involve the large-scale congregation of people, the corona crisis, by several objective measurements, appears to be intensifying in San Bernadino County.
For two months, a substantial percentage of both the inhabitants of San Bernardino County and the California population generally complied with state directives intended to slow the spread of the potentially fatal disease. The first of those was issued on March 11 with Governor Gavin Newsom and California’s public health authorities calling for all gatherings with 250 people or more to be rescheduled or canceled. Following that there was a March 15 directive that all “non-essential” businesses be closed, and then a March 17 order that all restaurants statewide should suspend dine-in service. Newsom on March 19 mandated that the state’s residents, within certain parameters, stay at home and self quarantine. On March 17, San Bernardino County’s public health officer, Dr. Erin Gustafson, ordered that as of March 18 all movie theaters, gyms, health clubs, bars, adult entertainment establishments, and other businesses that serve alcohol but do not serve food were to close.
Thereafter a whole host of retail and service establishments were shuttered, including all types where individuals routinely come into close physical contact with one another, such as hair and nail salons, barber shops and tattoo parlors.
Initial statistics based upon testing of San Bernardino County’s population showed an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, but the gradual swelling of the county’s numbers were not out of proportion with either neighboring counties nor most jurisdictions elsewhere in the state. The measure of the spread of the contagion might have been compromised by the county’s dearth of testing supplies, brought on by the general nationwide shortage of such kits and primarily the reagent used in them. The short supply of these crucial testing tools came about as a consequence of the heightened demand for them locally and nationally, and the failure of then-San Bernardino County Public Health Director Trudy Raymundo to order and secure stores of those supplies when she had the chance in the early stages of the outbreak.
After two months of the public’s general compliance with the shuttering of society and the collapsing economy it provoked, the mood of the citizenry chaffing under the seemingly interminable restrictions, manifesting in occasional public protests and isolated showings of defiance, apparently convinced both state and local officials to loosen the restrictions in gradual steps in correspondence with end of May and into the beginning of June. Parks, which were formerly off limits, were opened. Restaurants opened earlier this month, and today the State of California gave clearance for nail salons, tattoo studios, and providers of other personal care services to resume operations, including those in which a professional engages in touching a client’s face in order to perform facials, electrolysis, and waxing, and in other cases a client’s body as with estheticians and cosmetologists, those engaged in skin care and electrology, as well as those offering body piercing and massage therapy. At this point, some consider the state to have achieved progress, putting it more than two-thirds of the way back to the tenor of social interaction formerly taken for granted, with California not yet prepared to permit schools, youth sports venues, indoor playgrounds, live theaters, saunas and steam rooms, nightclubs, concert venues, festivals and theme parks to open.
Beginning late last week, however, there was an alarming uptick in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county, such that in a five day span the three largest jumps in the number of positive cases occurred.
As of press time today, San Bernardino County had 8,714 confirmed cases of the virus. The death toll in the county from the disease had reached 230. In the less than three weeks since the advent of June, the county has confirmed more than 3,350 new cases, which is more than 38 percent of the entire total of cases confirmed in the county since the beginning of March. Between Saturday, June 13 and today, the county sustained another 1,553 cases and 23 further deaths.
What is unknown, precisely, is whether the huge leap in the number of cases is the reflection of an actual upsurge in the spread of the condition or a function of the improvement in testing capability.
There was anecdotal evidence to suggest that San Bernardino County has suddenly transformed into California’s coronavirus hotspot. As of last week, San Bernardino County was seeing nearly double the increase in cases per capita of the surrounding counties. This week, that dubious distinction had intensified to the point that the number of cases in San Bernardino appears to be advancing at a rate of three times those in most of the rest of Southern California.
One telling manifestation is that in a setting within the county where there is little in the way of social distancing, the sheriff’s department’s academy held on the grounds of the Frank Bland Regional Training Center in Devore, a whopping 20 percent of the cadets there tested positive for COVID-19 between June 8, when two of the those in attendance at the facility were diagnosed as having come down with the virus, and Wednesday June 17, when 33 were confirmed to have contracted the potentially deadly malady.
Word was that few, if any, of the trainees were seriously ill. All 160 in attendance were tested for the disease, as were instructors and trainers.
The academy activities at the training center have been suspended, with classes now being conducted remotely and cybernetically, and cadets quarantined at home.
Governor Newsom yesterday, Thursday, June 18, ordered all Californians to wear face coverings while in public or in places where they are likely to come into contact with others, including in retail settings and while utilizing public transportation, as well as in any sort of medical setting.
-Mark Gutglueck

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