Following widespread and sustained reductions in COVID-19 hospitalizations throughout California, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday lifted the regional stay-at-home order that had placed the majority of Californians under some of the nation’s tightest restrictions for much of the past two months.
Hospitalizations have fallen substantially in nearly every region of California to the point where, this past weekend, there were fewer COVID-positive patients being treated in hospitals around the state than any point since the week prior to Christmas. Cases, too, are coming at their slowest rate since the second week of December. However, the hardest-hit regions are still averaging more infections and have more patients hospitalized and in intensive-care units than before the order was put in place, according to data compiled by this news organization.
Statewide, 17,810 patients are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, and an average of approximately 27,250 Californians are testing positive for the virus each day over the past week. That’s 18% fewer hospitalizations than there were two weeks ago and an ever further reductions in cases: down almost 40% in the past two weeks, though both are far higher than any point prior to this winter surge.
Fatalities, however, continue to come in some of the largest numbers of the pandemic, with an average of nearly 500 per day over the past week and a monthly total well over 10,000, far and away the state’s deadliest month of the pandemic, with another week still to go. Nine counties combined to add 243 to the statewide death toll Sunday: 98 in Los Angeles, 73 in San Bernardino, 31 in San Diego, 15 in San Francisco, 13 in Orange, eight in Alameda, two each in Contra Costa and Sonoma, and one in Santa Barbara.
Since Newsom announced the stay-at-home order Dec. 4, California has recorded more cases than in the entirety of the pandemic prior to it — and almost as many deaths. It took about two weeks following the order for the state’s winter wave to crest before plateauing for another three weeks; the past two weeks have provided drastic drops in case counts across the state.
In the Bay Area, daily infections have fallen 35% in the past two weeks and are almost equal to where it was when the stay-at-home order was put in place, at about 3,220 cases per day. On a per-capita basis, the infection rate in the Bay Area — about 38 daily cases per 100,000 residents — has fallen in line with those in Greater Sacramento and Northern California. In Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, however, there is still an average of between 65 and 85 cases per 100,000 residents per day, both still about 40% higher than when the order was put in place.
The state’s two southernmost regions also still have substantially more of their residents hospitalized and in ICUs, though each has reported a reduction over the past two weeks. In Southern California, hospitalizations have declined about 18% and ICU admissions by about 8% in the past two weeks; in the San Joaquin Valley, hospitalizations are down about 14% and ICUs by about 10% in that time. On a per-capita basis, though, each region has between one-and-half to two times as many patients in hospitals and ICUs than in the Bay Area, Greater Sacramento or Northern California.
The Bay Area has seen similar reductions over the past two weeks: hospitalizations down about 15% and ICUs by 9%. In Greater Sacramento, hospitalizations have decreased by 35% in the past two weeks but ICUs have remained about flat.
Over the weekend, ICU capacity in the region, as determined by the California Department of Public Health, shot up dramatically, to 23.4% of staffed and licensed beds available. Last Sunday, regional capacity had fallen as low as 0.7%.
Even in the San Joaquin Valley, ICU capacity had increased to 1.3%, its first time out of surge capacity in more than a month. In Southern California, however, hospitals remained in surge capacity with zero capacity in its ICUs, according to the state’s calculation.
For a region to exit the stay-at-home order, its projected ICU capacity four weeks out must be at least 15%.
Contributed by local news sources