California Gov. Gavin Newsom looks out at rows of graves before a wreath laying ceremony in the cemetery at the Veterans Home of California on May 22 in Yountville. Photo by Eric Risberg, AP Photo/Pool

Pointing to recent increases in statewide coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday demanded that Californians wear masks and take precautions.

He also delivered a warning to individual counties that fail to enforce health requirements, saying those that fall short will lose funding from the state.

“We cannot support bad behaviors, but we want to encourage and support good behavior,” Newsom said. “And if counties simply are going to (flout) the rules and regulations that they attested to … we’re going to attach some considerations, some consequences to that. There’s $2.5 billion in this budget that simply will not flow to those counties that do that.”

He said he does not anticipate taking such action, insisting that health officials across the state have been cooperative and done all they can to implement regulations to control the virus — to the point that some, including Los Angeles County public health director Barbara Ferrer, have been receiving death threats.

But he said the state won’t tolerate counties that are lax in enforcing health regulations, noting that state funding will be doled out on a monthly — not annual — basis so the state can ensure ongoing adherence to health restrictions.

In his roughly 40-minute televised speech, Newsom took an almost fatherly tone as he addressed residents about taking personal responsibility for halting spread of the virus, to the point of posting a chart about the proper way to wash your hands.

“Washing your hands isn’t just putting your damn hands, forgive my language, under the faucet for two seconds and calling it a day,” he said. “We’ve all seen that. Many have done that …but in this pandemic, come on. We can do a little more and a little bit better.”

He also re-emphasized his statewide mandate for residents to wear masks in most situations outside the home as a way to prevent transmitting the virus to others. And he delivered a message to young residents who may not feel vulnerable to the virus.

“You’re not invincible from COVID-19,” he said “Quite the contrary, this is a disease that easily spreads, very easily spreads. And if you’re not (concerned) about yourself because you’re like, ‘I got this, I’m strong, I’m young, I’m healthy, don’t worry about me I’m tough,’ well consider others.”

The state on Tuesday set a record for the daily increase in the number of coronavirus cases. Newsom noted Wednesday that while some may attribute the jump to an increase in testing, other key markers in the state are also on the rise.

He said the most recent 14-day average of people testing positive for the virus statewide overall is 5.1%, up from 4.6% earlier this month, and the average over the last seven days is up to 5.6%. In San Diego, cases spiked on Sunday and Monday, but the average remains under 3%.

Newsom also said the number of people hospitalized across the state due to the virus increased by 29% over the past two weeks, while the number of ICU patients went up 18%.

He said the increases correlate directly to efforts to reopen the economy that began about a month ago, combined with statewide mass protests against police brutality and an increase in people likely feeling more comfortable and holding family gatherings at their homes.

“I’m not naive. People are mixing and that is increasing the spread of this virus,” he said. “It shouldn’t surprise anybody. Not only as we reopen our economy but we begin to reopen our households and we begin to go back to our old ways and our old habits, the consequence is we are spreading this virus. And it is incumbent on us to recognize that. … It is our behaviors that are leading to these numbers and we are putting people’s lives at risk.”

— City News Service

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