For the second time in the past week, California on Monday blew its previous daily COVID-19 case record out of the water, and practically across the Pacific. Hospitals are beginning to near capacity in parts of the state, while more regions have put their reopening plans on hold amid what one local health official described as an “alarming” surge in cases.
Health departments around the state reported 8,184 new positive tests Monday, shattering the previous record set last Monday and raising the total count to more than 222,000, according to data compiled by this news organization. While data on Monday can be inflated from reporting delays over the weekend, the 8,184 new cases is 25% higher than any previous Monday. Before last Monday, the state hadn’t experienced a single day of 5,000 cases; now, it is averaging well over 5,000 a day — 5,475 over the past week, 33% higher than a week ago.
In Los Angeles County alone, there were nearly 3,000 new cases — more than all but three states on Monday.
“The alarming increases in cases, positivity rates and hospitalizations signals that we, as a community, need to take immediate action to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the Los Angeles County public health director, said in a statement. “Otherwise, we are quickly moving toward overwhelming our healthcare system and seeing even more devastating illness and death.”
The statewide positive-rate of tests over the past seven days is 5.9%. As recently as two weeks ago, an average of 4.6% of tests were coming back positive. Both rates, however, pale in comparison to other states where cases are spiking. In Florida, 15.6% of tests were coming back positive, while in Arizona, the positivity rate was 24.4%. California is also now testing more people than all but five states at a rate of 2.4 tests per 1,000 residents. Seventeen states have a higher positivity rate than California.
Although the positive test rate, total cases and hospitalizations continue to rise, the state has yet to experience a spike in deaths. There were 44 more fatalities reported Monday, bringing the death toll to 5,977. The average of 59 deaths per day over the past week is 25% lower than its peak in late April.
But some counties are beginning to hit a critical mass of hospitalizations.
In Riverside County, intensive care units were 99% full, prompting Rep. Raul Ruiz, who represents the 36th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, to call on local officials to reinstate public health orders.
“I am calling on the County to immediately reverse their decision to rescind public health safety measures and reinstate their order to wear masks in public and transparently communicate their social distancing and stay at home surge intervention plans and enforcement mechanisms,” Ruiz said in a statement.
Imperial County, on the Mexican border, continues to be the largest cause for concern for state health officials. It has 26 total ICU beds, and 16 are currently being used by coronavirus patients.
The infection rate in the mostly rural, agricultural county is three times higher than any other county but one in the state — 3,200 per 100,000 residents, compared to 982 per 100,000 in LA County and 554 per 100,000 statewide. Every county in the Bay Area falls below the statewide rate, led by Marin County at 458 cases per 100,000 residents.
Statewide, there is still plenty of hospital and ICU capacity. COVID-19 patients were taking up 13% of total ICU beds in the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday, and more than 3,700 of the nearly 11,000 in the state are currently unoccupied. Certain areas, such as San Francisco, have begun to accept transfers of hospital patients from other counties with less capacity.
Even as hospitalizations have spiked in the Bay Area in the past week, there aren’t nearly the number of patients in its hospitals compared to counties in Southern California, and now some in the Central Valley have even overtaken the Bay. There are 45% more patients hospitalized in the 10 Bay Area counties than a week ago, but the the total number — 359 confirmed cases — is less than Los Angeles (1,783), Orange (485), San Bernardino (376), San Diego (373) or Riverside (367) counties individually. Total hospitalizations across the state have risen 29% in the past week to 4,683, the highest it has been since the outbreak began.
Including transfers, hospitalizations in San Francisco were up to 61 on Saturday, the most since May 23 — but that’s a fraction of the 1,248 ICU and acute-care beds that remain open. Hospitals in San Mateo County are using six of their 255 available surge beds and six of their 204 ventilators. More than half their ICU beds remain open, and of those in use, COVID patients are outnumbered nearly 4:1.
Santa Clara, Contra Costa and Solano counties earned three of 19 spots on the state’s “watch list” — counties that Newsom and state health officials are keeping a close eye on. In Santa Clara County, there were 78 patients hospitalized — the most since the outbreak began, but still just 3% of the county’s total hospital capacity. Contra Costa County reported 169 new cases — its most yet — while Santa Clara added another 103. Cases in Solano and Contra Costa counties are up 30% in a week, while Santa Clara’s count has risen 20%.
While Newsom hadn’t ordered Contra Costa to pause reopening as he did for seven other counties this weekend, the county didn’t wait for word from Sacramento: it said bars and some other businesses will no longer reopen on July 1. Alameda County, where cases are up 15% in the past week, also said it would shelve plans for indoor dining and salons to reopen this week.
Coronavirus: California shatters another record for daily cases