California COVID-19 case numbers are improving but don't expect rush to reopen

California's COVID-19 case numbers are improving, according to California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly.

At a press briefing Tuesday, Ghaly said California's latest report shows 4,480 new COVID-19 cases were recorded the previous day.

"We've been watching for two to three weeks, steady declines in our hospital numbers as well as our ICU numbers," said Ghaly, noting a 19% decline in hospitalizations, and an 18% drop in ICU COVID-19 patients compared to two weeks ago.

The state says 105 deaths were reported Monday.

The rate of positive cases is 6.3% over the last 14 days and 5.7% over the last 7 days. Both rates are below the state's goal of 8%.

The state and counties should not rush to reopen though, according to Dr. John Swartzberg, a clinical professor emeritus of Public Health at UC Berkeley.

"If we start to open things up too soon, we'll be opening up when we have even more cases than we have in June," said Swartzberg.

He says the reopening last May showed that not enough Californians took precautions to stop the coronavirus' spread.

"So we just keep going up and up and up in a fashion like waves, but the waves keep getting bigger and bigger because we're starting at a higher level," said Swartzberg.

It is a difficult task, trying to balance the state's public health and economic health.

Small business owners rallied in front of San Francisco's city hall Tuesday. Their masks and strict social distancing showed concern for the coronavirus, but emotions came pouring out with hand-written signs showing the frustration and despair over the economic toll of pandemic closures.

"We have been closed for six months," said Dave Karraker, owner of a personal training business MX3 Fitness in San Francisco. His business has moved equipment outdoors to the sidewalk in order to try to keep clients and employees. Karraker says he understands the need for balance, but he and other business owners want public officials to give clearer directives about what health measures might allow them to reopen safely.

"Even when we come off the watch list, we have no idea when we're going to reopen or how we're going to reopen. The city has not communicated with us at all to give us very clear direction," said Karraker.

Any reopening though would coincide with the fall influenza season just months away. Swartzberg urges caution. He says the state will need to ramp up COVID-19 testing to 200,000 or more tests per day, nearly double current levels, and he says Californians will need to play their part.

"The reason it didn't work is that people weren't social distancing and weren't wearing masks," said Swartzberg, "There's nothing magical about stopping this pandemic. We know exactly what we need to do. It's just getting people to do it."  

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana