LOS ANGELES (AP) — California recorded more than 1,000 deaths from the coronavirus Friday as the pandemic pushed the state into recession, despite signs that have emerged of an improving outlook for the virus.
The state topped a number it once hoped to avoid, reaching 1,021 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The death toll came after California recorded its greatest number of deaths in one day, 95, on Thursday, eclipsing the previous mark of 71.
The state also reported for the first time that 3,500 cases are in nursing homes or adult care facilities, where the most vulnerable people reside and infections have spread quickly. That figure reflects about 12% of more than 27,500 cases the state reported.
Gov. Gavin Newsom also named a task force Friday to help the state recover economically after he begins easing restrictions that have shuttered businesses. The nonpartisan panel of billionaires and corporate leaders that includes all four living former governors — two Democrats, like Newsom, and two Republicans — came after dismal unemployment figures ended a record 10-year economic growth streak.
“We are now in a pandemic-induced recession here in the state of California,” Newsom said. “These are sober and challenging times.”
The growth period ended as the state lost 100,000 jobs in March, a figure that barely begins to account for damage done to the world’s fifth-largest economy.
Those March job losses occurred before the governor issued a stay-at-home order that only allows essential employees to go to work, effectively closing most shops, bars and restaurants that don’t offer takeout food. Schools have been closed, and employees who can are working remotely.
In order to begin lifting restrictions, the state will need to test 25,000 people a day and track down those they may have infected, a big task in the nation’s most populous state with 40 million residents. Testing has been problematic for weeks in California — and across the U.S. — and fewer than 20,000 are administered each day, though testing sites continue to expand.
One Medical, a San Francisco-based primary care provider with dozens of medical offices in the Bay Area, has begun offering COVID-19 tests to the general public at some sites, including those who don’t show any symptoms, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Los Angeles County said free, same-day tests are now available for all residents who have symptoms of COVID-19. Riverside County announced it would begin testing residents who want a test but don’t have symptoms, a step toward figuring out how widespread the infection is.
“We’re testing people already when they’re sick, but we need to understand how COVID-19 is affecting people who may generally feel well, including kids,” Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county’s public health officer, said in a statement. “That’s going to be a key indicator for understanding how it spreads and knowing where our areas of concern are when we think about if and how much to open things again.”
A Stanford University study released Friday found that the virus may have infected a far greater number of people than presumed. Scientists tested more than 3,000 people for the presence of antibodies to the virus and estimate that 48,000 to 81,000 people were infected in Santa Clara County by early April, far greater than the nearly 2,000 people who have tested positive to date.
Meanwhile San Francisco, Contra Costa and Marin counties joined others in the state that require people to wear masks or other face coverings to be worn in certain public settings to prevent spread of the virus.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed said the order would take effect Saturday, but police will not enforce it until Wednesday. She also told people the new order should not take the place of physical distancing or staying at home, and that people shouldn’t use the opportunity to police others.
“If you are not a police officer, don’t act like one,” she said. “What we don’t want is more confrontation, more stress, and more drama in general as a result of this order.”
As in other counties, the coverings will be required when people are indoors or waiting in line to get into grocery stores or on a bus or other essential businesses.
More large events were also scratched as a result of outbreak.
San Diego’s Comic-Con was canceled, though organizers said they plan for the festival to return in July 2021.
Taylor Swift canceled all performances for the year, including one in July that would have served as the opening of Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium, the new home of the San Diego Chargers. She would have become the first woman to open an NFL stadium, organizers said.
Associated Press writers Amy Taxin in Orange County, Janie Har in San Francisco, Adam Beam and Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento and John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this story.