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Deaths in California hit new high, but Bay Area continues to be spared

Deaths in California hit new high, but Bay Area continues to be spared

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This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). 

For three weeks, nearly every day has brought with it a record number of cases and hospitalizations from COVID-19 in California. Now, after back-to-back days of record-setting death tolls, the state has now experienced its deadliest seven-day period of the pandemic.

Another 135 Californians perished from the virus Thursday, according to data compiled by this news organization, just shy of the record set Wednesday but more than any other day before that. With it, the seven-day average climbed to 84 fatalities per day -- 29% higher than a week ago and the highest it has ever been. The previous peak came in mid-April, when an average of 80 people died per day from April 18-24.

New cases and hospitalizations aren't slowing down, either. The state added another 9,769 confirmed cases Thursday, raising the seven-day average to 7,909, also a new high. The number of patients hospitalized in California hit a low of 3,092 on June 13; in the month since, it has nearly doubled to 6,126, hitting a new high on Wednesday. The test-positivity rate, which the World Health Organization advises to keep under 5%, has risen to 7.6% from 4.9% just over two weeks ago.

Health officials have warned that deaths are a lagging indicator and wondered when, or if, states with rising case numbers would begin to see a commensurate rise in deaths. Earlier this week, a WHO official said "we may see deaths start to climb again because we've only really experienced this rapid increase in cases over the last five to six weeks."

In other states where cases and hospitalizations have been rising, deaths are beginning to follow. Texas and Florida also reported record numbers of deaths from the virus on Thursday. Texas has reported 203 fatalities from the virus the past two days after not having a day with more than 60 before this week; the seven-day average there is 72% higher than a week ago. In Florida, more than 400 new patients were admitted to hospitals Thursday and 120 people died from the virus -- both new records for the state.

While California has hit new highs of infections and deaths, the Bay Area has so far staved off the worst of the virus. Cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in the region, but its 10 counties (population: 8 million) accounted for seven of the 135 fatalities (5%) statewide Thursday. Los Angeles (47), Orange (26), Riverside (18) and San Bernardino (11) accounted for the majority of the deaths Thursday.

The six southern-most counties in California have the highest death rates over the past week, when accounting for population: Los Angeles (23.5 deaths per 1 million in the past week), Orange (15.1 deaths per 1 million), Riverside (27.5 deaths per 1 million), San Bernardino (17.7 per 1 million), San Diego (11.3 per 1 million) and Imperial (149 per 1 million). In the Bay Area, the death rate was 4.9 per 1 million residents over the past week.

The 554 patients in Bay Area hospitals is the most of any point in the pandemic, up 72% from two weeks ago, while the average number of cases had risen to 734 per day, 63% higher than two weeks ago. Per-capita, however, it is adding fewer cases per day than counties in Central and Southern California.

In the four counties between Los Angeles and the Arizona and Mexican borders -- Imperial, Orange, Riverside and San Diego (population: 9.1 million) -- cases are up 92% in two weeks, from 12.3 per 100,000 residents per day to 23.7 per 100,000. In seven Central Valley counties -- Fresno, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare (population: 3.4 million) -- the number of cases is rising even faster: up 110% from two weeks ago (15.7 per 100,000 residents per day to 33). The per-capita case rate in the Bay Area (population: 8 million) remains lower than both regions even before recent spikes, at 9.2 cases per 100,000 residents per day.

The Harvard Global Health Institute's per-capita case map seems to indicate a deteriorating situation. A week ago, Arizona and Florida were the only states designated red or "high risk," with more than 25 cases per 100,000 residents per day in the past week; now, they are joined by Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas and Georgia.

All six states also have rising positivity rates, according to the COVID Tracking Project: Louisiana, at 9.3%, is the only one under 10%. The country's percentage of positive tests has nearly doubled in less than a month and now sits at 8.4%. A majority of states have positive rates above the WHO-recommended 5% threshold.

In California, three counties were deemed high risk a week ago. Now, there are 11 shaded red on the Harvard map: Marin, Colusa, San Joaquin, Merced, Madera, Kings, Tulare, Santa Barbara, Orange, San Bernardino and Imperial. In the Bay Area, Contra Costa, Solano and Napa have also moved into the second-highest risk designation with at least 12 new cases per day per 100,000 residents.

As a state, California has reported the 12th-most cases per capita in the past week: 19.6 per 100,000 residents, one of 20 states Harvard scientists deemed red or orange risk levels. The state crossed the 300,000 case mark Thursday, one day after the Bay Area's case count crossed 30,000. In total, 6,850 Californians have died from COVID-19, including 632 Bay Area residents. In the U.S., the death toll hit 133,000 on Thursday, while the case count climbed to 3.1 million, more than triple any other county but Brazil, which had 1.7 million cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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