Needles and Pens owner Breezy Culbertson and her boyfriend, Scott Carl, prepare to reopen for curbside pickup on May 18, 2020 as San Francisco enters phase 2 of the Gov. Newsom’s plan to reopen California. “There’s not a lot of communication, it’s been frustrating to figure this out,” said Culbertson. “We’re trying to catch up.” Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

(CALMATTERS) – As COVID-19 cases in California surged past 200,000 and statewide hospitalizations continued to set all-time highs every day this week, Gov. Gavin Newsom started to tap the brakes today — urging especially hard-hit Imperial County to reinstate its stay-at-home order. 

At a press conference, Newsom said he is “committed to intervening” if county officials don’t renew the order.  

As Imperial and nearly all of the state’s 58 counties have moved toward reopening their economies, cases have soared, particularly in California’s southern and central regions. Now, some counties are starting to push the “pause” button on their plans to open hair salons, gyms, bars and indoor dining — including Marin and San Francisco. 

Public health officials blame the surge on outbreaks generated from social gatherings, as well as those in prisons and nursing homes. Massive protests against police brutality also may have played a role.

In addition to Imperial County, where county officials scheduled an emergency meeting tonight to discuss the governor’s request, 14 other counties have been placed on the state’s “watch list” because of their rise in COVID-19 activity: Contra Costa, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Stanislaus, Tulare and Ventura. 

The reasons vary – some counties such as Sacramento attributed their case spike to community gatherings; others cited increased testing, prison outbreaks or hospital transfers of COVID-19-positive patients from other counties where hospitals were full.