In his first press briefing in months on Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious diseases official, reminded Americans of the “almost paradoxical” effect at times in coronavirus data. Nowhere has that been better exemplified than recently in California, where on Thursday, its average number of daily infections continued to plummet yet it recorded its largest number of deaths on any single day of the pandemic.
“There are always lags, so please be aware of that,” Fauci said. “When you have cases, then a couple of weeks later, you have it represented in hospitalizations, intensive care, then a couple of weeks later, in deaths. So you have almost paradoxical curves when you see something plateauing and maybe coming down at the same time as hospitalizations and deaths might actually be going up.”
With 25,246 new cases around the state on Thursday, according to data compiled by this news organization, California has reported its fewest infections over the past week than any other seven-day period since the second week of December — 29% fewer than the week before. But as cases decrease, California is still in the midst of its deadliest period of the pandemic.
For the second time in the past three days, California topped its previous record for deaths, with 740 recorded around the state on Thursday. No week has topped the one that ended last Thursday, when 3,737 Californians perished from the virus, an average of more than 533 per day, but the state’s death toll is climbing again. The past seven days have produced 3,476 fatalities — an average of nearly 500 per day — and with more than 9,700 in its first 21 days, January has already exceeded the state’s deadliest previous month by nearly 3,000 fatalities.
The good news is that deaths are the final lagging indicator. California’s case count, positivity rate and hospitalizations are all trending down.
On Wednesday, in the latest data available from the state, California saw one of its largest single-day reduction in hospitalizations of the entire pandemic, decreasing by a net of more than 400 patients, or a 2.2% single-day decline, to 19,537, including 4,670 receiving intensive care. Two weeks earlier, active hospitalizations in California hit what now appears to be their peak, with just fewer than 22,000 Californians hospitalized at once; they’ve since declined about 11%.
Hospitals in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley are still operating in surge capacity, but those regions have also accounted for the largest reductions in hospitalizations in the state. Every region in the state but Northern California has reduced its hospitalizations in the past two weeks, but there were already far fewer Northern Californians hospitalized with COVID-19.
Los Angeles County and its neighbors in Southern California continue to report the largest numbers of deaths in California, but a trio of counties in the Bay Area also added substantial increases to their death tolls for the second straight day.
LA County led the state with 257 fatalities on Wednesday, followed by 63 in Riverside County. San Diego, Orange and Ventura counties also ranked among the top 10, with 48, 38 and 29, respectively. But Alameda County, with 53 fatalities reported Wednesday, had the day’s third-highest death toll in the state, while Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties weren’t far behind, with 29 and 18 of their own.
With 126 fatalities around the region, it was also the Bay Area’s deadliest day of the pandemic. In the past week, two in every three deaths in the region have come in Santa Clara, Alameda or Contra Costa County, despite the three counties making up just over half the region’s population.
Nationwide, the U.S. is experiencing a similar trend as California, still recording some of its deadliest days of the pandemic but with a diminishing case load. On Thursday, the country recorded another 4,000-plus fatalities, and the virus is still killing an average of more than 3,000 Americans each day, according to data collected by the New York Times. But at approximately 190,000 per day, the country is averaging far fewer infections than it was immediately after the holidays, when its average daily case count reached as high as 260,000.
Contributed by local news sources