SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California has cut its COVID-19 testing backlog by more than two-thirds, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Saturday, but has still managed to test less than one half of 1% of the state's nearly 40 million residents.
“I own that. I have a responsibility as your governor to do better,” the governor said during his daily press briefing.
California has tested 126,000 people. Of those, 13,000 test results are still pending as of Friday. That's down from the 59,500 pending results that were reported Thursday. As of Friday, the state reported 12,026 confirmed COVID-19 cases, a 12.4% increase from the previous day, plus 276 deaths.
Across the state, cooped up residents were pushing the limits of California's stay-at-home order, with the San Diego County sheriff reporting issuing 22 citations to people near the beach in Encinitas, saying violators were doing things like having picnics near the beach.
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.”
That appears to include major sports leagues such as the NFL, which has three teams in California. Asked if he thought the NFL season would start on time in September with fans in the stands, Newsom said: “I’m not anticipating that happening in this state.”
Meanwhile, at a press conference in the White House, President Donald Trump said he didn't expect any impact to the NFL schedule because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Like most states, California has struggled to define the scope of the virus outbreak because of a lack of testing. Newsom said the Golden State was “turning the page on our old approach.”
He announced new partnerships with University of California campuses in Davis and San Diego to set up between five to seven testing hubs. Plus, he said the Illinois-based Abbot Laboratories had committed to setting up 75 testing sites throughout the state.
He 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.
“We are now in a position where I can confidently say it is a new day,” Newsom said.
Newsom's comments came the day before Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week for Christians. Most churches have moved their services online. But a few were defying public health officials by still having in-person worship services.
Cross Culture Christian Center in Lodi, in the agricultural Central Valley, sent the city a “cease and desist” letter after police entered the church last week during a service attended by about 30 people and 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.”
The Associated Press and KTVU contributed to this report.