In the latest grim sign of just how deadly the most recent days of the COVID-19 pandemic have been, California on Thursday reported more than 500 lives lost to the virus, yet the state’s average daily death toll decreased after the final tally was complete.
Average daily fatalities from COVID-19 have been skyrocketing for over a month in California but fell slightly Thursday from their highest point of the pandemic to about 369 per day over the past week, after county health departments combined to report 508 deaths around the state, according to data compiled by this news organization. After a post-Christmas lull, the state’s case count ticked up slightly again to about 39,700 per day over the past week, after there were another 40,196 reported around the state Thursday.
The virus has killed more than 1,000 Californians in the past 48 hours, the state’s deadliest two-day period of the pandemic. However, no single day has topped New Year’s Eve, when 571 deaths were recorded, which was replaced in the seven-day average calculation by the 508 reported on Thursday, causing it to drop. Still, more than 2,500 Californians lost their lives to the virus just since the new year began, a weekly total exceeding that of some months earlier in the pandemic, the equivalent of a death every four minutes.
Nationally, the U.S. broke its daily death record for a second straight day and recorded more than 4,000 fatalities over 24 hours for the first time of the pandemic, according to data collected by the New York Times. In the first week of the new year, more than 19,400 Americans lost their lives to the virus, according to the Times’ data, the country’s deadliest week of the pandemic.
While the national case count has soared past its previous pre-Christmas peak, California is still averaging about 12% fewer cases than it was at its highpoint prior to the holiday. Since Monday, however, average daily infections have risen approximately 10%. Even accounting for its massive population, only two states have recorded more infections per-capita over the past week, and just three have a higher proportion of its residents currently hospitalized with the virus.
Hospital admissions have slowed across California, but there are still more COVID-positive patients hospitalized throughout the state than any other point of the pandemic. On Wednesday, the active count grew to 21,939, according to the latest data from the state, including 4,712 intensive-care patients.
In the Bay Area, ICU capacity dropped to its lowest point of the pandemic, with just 3.5% of staffed and licensed beds in the region left available, according to state data. While the majority of the fatalities continued to come in Southern California, where hospitals have been operating at surge capacity for more than two weeks, there was also a substantial number of deaths Wednesday in the Bay Area.
The first refrigerated trailers ordered by the state, intended for the temporary storage of dead bodies, arrived this week in Imperial County, with more on the way to other hard-hit locales, including Sonoma County, according to the Office of Emergency Services. They’ve also been deployed to Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Monterey counties.
Los Angeles County, where nearly half of the statewide fatalities have occurred in the past week, reported another 217 on Thursday, followed by three other Southern California locales: San Diego County, with 47; Riverside County, with 38; and Orange County, with 29.
In the Bay Area region, which under the state’s stay-at-home order includes Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, the past three days have brought three of the region’s four highest death tolls of the pandemic, including 75 on Thursday. In Santa Clara County, 16 fatalities on Thursday pushed the cumulative death toll over 800. In Alameda County, there were also 16 deaths, increasing the cumulative total over 700. And in Santa Cruz County, the cumulative death toll surpassed 100 after another seven were reported on Thursday. Elsewhere in the region, Contra Costa also reported 16 new deaths to bring its total to 371; Sonoma County added nine to its count, which grew to 213; and the death toll in San Francisco increased by two, to 205.
The statewide death toll Wednesday exceeded 500 for just the third time of the pandemic, all occurring in the past eight days.
In the Bay Area, deaths have risen by 40% in the past two weeks but continue to come at the lowest per-capita rate of any region in California. By contrast, Southern California reported substantially higher rates of infections and fatalities per-capita over the past week than any other region in California. Just in the past week, about one in every 140 Californians tested positive for COVID-19, compared to about one in every 120 in Southern California and about one in every 260 in the Bay Area.
Contributed by local news sources