FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The number of COVID-19 cases in Madera County has more than doubled over the past two weeks, from 334 on June 22, to 713 on July 6th.
RELATED: Coronavirus: Tracking Central California COVID-19 cases
Health officials say the spike cannot be attributed simply to more testing because they've also seen a significant increase in hospitalizations, and 11 percent of all tests are now coming back positive, compared to 4 percent earlier in the pandemic.
"We're seeing a lot of cases as a result of people engaging in social activities, particularly in their homes, so home parties, swim parties, family get-togethers," says Madera County Public Health Director Sara Bosse.
Bosse says the county also has many large households where the virus can easily spread.
"We've got multigenerational homes, multiple families living together, so we see one case of COVID in a home quickly becomes 5 or 10 cases," she said.
The health department and sheriff's office have been working together for months to trace each case and ensure positive patients and anyone they've come in contact with are isolated to slow the spread, but that strategy is starting to shift.
Officials say contact tracing is now becoming somewhat less effective because test results are taking longer to come back.
So instead, residents are being asked to assume they're positive until they know otherwise.
"Staying home when you're sick has always been the advice, but now more than ever, wearing masks much more than in the past is helpful," says Madera County Health Officer Dr. Simon Paul. "All those things to try to prevent the spread without waiting for us to give you a call."
The county is leading a collaborative effort to launch a new website on Wednesday called ValleyCOVIDHelp.com in hopes of helping people be proactive.
On Tuesday, officials plan to announce a date for shutting down bars and indoor operations at restaurants, wineries, and other facilities due to being on the state's monitoring list.
RELATED: Madera County added to California's monitoring list, indoor dining, bars must close
"If you can stay healthy, then it helps everybody else stay healthy and keep things open and get us off the watch list in a couple of weeks with luck," Dr. Paul said.
Madera County seeing quick rise in number of COVID-19 cases
More TOP STORIES News