June 23, 2020 / 8:54 PM / 13 days ago

California hospital admitting only COVID-19 patients as outbreak ravages state's breadbasket

FILE PHOTO: Fake blood is seen in test tubes labelled with the coronavirus (COVID-19) in this illustration taken March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - The COVID-19 spike in California’s agricultural breadbasket is so steep that a hospital in Lodi is not accepting some patients who have other illnesses, as infections mount at nearly four times the rate called for in state guidelines for reopening the economy.

The rapid rise of hospitalizations in San Joaquin County comes as infections from the novel coronavirus continue to soar in California, which on Monday reported a record increase of over 6,000 new cases, according to a Reuters tally.

Throughout the United States, the virus is moving into rural areas and other places that it had not initially penetrated deeply and renewing its surge in states including Arizona and Texas where restrictions meant to slow its spread were lifted early.

The rapid rise in San Joaquin County is mostly due to people socializing and visiting restaurants together, said Supervising Public Health Educator Daniel Kim. There are 91 people hospitalized with COVID-19, state records show, up from eight on May 21. Total cases have jumped by 903 in the past two weeks, to 2,400, county records show.

One hospital, Adventist Health Lodi Memorial, has begun diverting patients to other facilities, Kim said.

Hospital spokeswoman Lauren Nelson said the emergency room remains open, but non-coronavirus patients who require admission are being moved to other facilities. On Saturday, the hospital said fewer than 30 staff members had tested positive for the virus.

With Republicans led by President Donald Trump eschewing the use of masks, the county is one of many areas across the United States where it has been difficult to persuade some residents to cover their faces.

Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom imposed a statewide mask requirement, acting in part because local officials, including those in San Joaquin County and its most populous city, Stockton, declined to do so. The county is one of 11 that might be required to roll back reopening plans amid surges in infections or hospitalizations.

Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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