Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Saturday that he’s struck an agreement to ramp up rapid COVID-19 testing around the state. The news comes one day after Fresno County reported its first death from the disease, and the number of confirmed cases in the county climbed to 103.
Tulare County reported two additional deaths on Saturday from COVID-19. The county’s death toll has now risen to 5, with the number of confirmed cases increasing from 81 to 107 over the past day.
At his daily media briefing, Newsom announced an agreement with Abbott Laboratories to set up 75 testing centers around the state, utilizing the company’s system that can detect the deadly novel coronavirus, using on-site equipment, in about 5 minutes.
Testing Backlog Cut Significantly
Currently, patient test swabs have to be sent off to large labs for processing, creating bottlenecks and delayed results. On Thursday, California’s health department reported 59,500 tests were awaiting processing. Physicians and local health officials have repeatedly raised concerns that patient test results were taking days, even weeks, to be returned.
On Saturday, Newsom said the state has cut its COVID-19 testing backlog by more than two-thirds, with about 13,000 remaining to be processed.
But he acknowledged that less than one half of 1% of the state’s nearly 40 million residents have been tested for COVID-19.
“I own that. I have a responsibility as your governor to do better,” the governor said.
Stanford Blood Test Could Show Immunity
As of Friday, California has reported 12,026 confirmed COVID-19 cases, a 12.4% increase from the previous day, plus 276 deaths across the state.
Newson also said researchers at Stanford University were close to getting approval for an antibody test that would tell not just whether someone has the virus, but also if they are immune. The blood-test for COVID-19 antibodies could allow for Californians who have immunity to return to work and resume normal activities sooner.
“We are now in a position where I can confidently say it is a new day,” Newsom said.
Across the state, cooped up residents were pushing the limits of California’s stay-at-home order. The San Diego County sheriff reporting issuing 22 citations to people near the beaches, saying violators were doing things like having picnics.
Newsom has not stepped up statewide enforcement of his stay-at-home order, but warned people to obey local authorities.
“The state is always prepared to do more. I just want to encourage people, don’t force our hand in that respect,” Newsom said. “We cannot allow cabin fever to come in. We cannot allow people to start congregating again.”
Valley Church Defying Shelter in Place Order
Newsom’s comments came the day before Palm Sunday. Most churches have moved their services online. But a few were defying public health officials by still having in-person worship services.
In Lodi, Cross Culture Christian Center sent the city a “cease and desist” letter after police entered the church last week during a service attended by about 30 people. The church intended to continue its services, attorney Dean Broyles of the National Center for Law & Policy told the Sacramento Bee.
Officers have posted a “notice of public nuisance” on the church’s main entrance, city spokesman Jeff Hood told The Bee.
“The faith-based community is all about love,” Newsom said. “If you love thy neighbor, you will practice physical distancing. You won’t put them in a congregant setting to put their lives at risk.”
GV Wire contributed to this report.