COVID-19 fatalities in California declined week-over-week for the second-straight day Wednesday, as cases and hospitalizations also continued to plummet and the virus’ deadly winter wave begins to abate.
Three weeks removed from the first sign of decline in cases, deaths may be beginning to follow, as county health departments reported a combined 587 on Wednesday, according to data compiled by The Mercury News, still a stunning number of lives lost but almost 200 fewer than the week before, lowering the average deaths over the past week below 500 per day. With 12,574 new cases Wednesday, California is averaging fewer than half the infections per day it was two weeks ago: approximately 16,350 per day over the past week, the lowest its daily average has been in exactly two months.
It was then, in the first week of December, that California’s outbreak exploded. A corresponding uptick in deaths followed a little more than weeks later. Cases continued to rise up until Christmas, then plateaued at a dangerously high level for almost a month. Those cases turned into the record number of deaths California reported throughout the month of January. But around the middle of the month, cases began to decline. And now, about three weeks later, deaths have decreased on consecutive days.
In just over two months since the winter wave began in earnest, at the start of December, California has recorded more than 2 million cases, nearly twice as many in the nine prior months of the pandemic, as well as 23,000 deaths, 4,000 more than the previous nine months.
Hospitalizations, too, have been steadily declining for nearly a month and on Tuesday reached their lowest point since the second week of December, with 13,766 Californians currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including 3,667 receiving intensive care, the fewest since the week before Christmas. ICUs in all five regions of the state have exited surge capacity, though capacity remains below 10% in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, according to California Department of Public Health data.
In the Bay Area, ICU capacity has increased to 18.2% and is projected to reach 33.3% by March 1, according to CDPH. In Southern California, ICUs are projected to have a state-leading 43.2% capacity by then, followed by 35.1% in the San Joaquin Valley, previously the two hardest-hit regions in the state.
An outsized share of the statewide fatalities continue to come in Southern California, which accounted for three in every four deaths Wednesday, despite making up just over half the state’s population. The three largest death tolls Wednesday and six of the 11 counties that reported double-digit fatalities came in Southern California: Los Angeles County, with 251; San Diego County, with 54; San Bernardino, with 49; Orange County, with 37; Riverside County, with 27; and Santa Barbara County with 13.
In the Bay Area, Santa Clara County recorded another substantial total Wednesday; 40 deaths, which included some lag from the weekend, according to the county, the fourth-highest tally in the state. With over 103,000 cases and 1,473 of its residents’ lives lost to the virus, Santa Clara County leads the region in total cases and fatalities, as well as per-capita deaths (only Napa and Solano counties have more cases per-capita). However, Santa Clara is the only Bay Area county to rank among the top 30 statewide in overall deaths per-capita, and none rank inside the top 20. No Bay Area county ranks among the top 30 statewide in overall cases per-capita.
With nearly 300 new cases and eight deaths Wednesday, the cumulative death toll in Alameda County came within one of 1,000, and its overall case count neared in on 75,000, each second-only to Santa Clara County in the Bay Area.
In total, there were 62 deaths reported across the region on Wednesday, pushing its cumulative total over 4,500, or about one in every nine deaths in California over the course of the pandemic. (Approximately one in every five Californians resides in the region.)
As California continues to report deaths at a pace of about 500 per day, its cumulative death toll has reached 42,468, within about a thousand of New York, where they are coming at about 180 per day, for the most deaths in any state.
Nationally, the U.S. death toll reached 450,000 on Wednesday, according to data collected by the New York Times. A total of at least 26.5 million Americans have contracted the virus since the onset of the pandemic, though that number was recently exceeded by the number of Americans to have received the COVID-19 vaccine.
Contributed by local news sources