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Coronavirus: California breaks single-day death record, with fatalities all over the state

Coronavirus: California breaks single-day death record, with fatalities all over the state

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California withholds virus money from 2 defiant cities

People gather around a police car to watch the Atwater City Council meeting on television outside City Hall in Atwater on Monday, July 27, 2020. California Gov. Gavin Newsom for the first time is using his newly won financial power to withhold tens of thousands of dollars from Atwater and Coalinga in California’s Central Valley because they are defying state health orders by allowing all businesses to remain open during the pandemic. Officials in the two cities say they won’t give in. 

For the third time in the past week, California set a new record for daily deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, sparing few corners of the state.

Six counties reported at least 10 fatalities, including 51 in Los Angeles, while two others recorded their most yet in a single day on the state's path to 164 deaths on Tuesday, according to data compiled by this news organization. That seven-day average climbed higher than it has ever been, 119 deaths per day over the past week, even as the number of new cases has plateaued around 9,215 per day, with another 10,006 reported on Tuesday.

The state previously set a daily record with 155 fatalities last Wednesday, then broke that mark the next day, with 156 fatalities.

California's cumulative death toll, which overtook Massachusetts for third in the nation Monday, rose to 8,708, while its cumulative case count stood at 473,333 after Tuesday's reporting, the most in the nation. By per-capita, however, California doesn't crack the top 25 in deaths or top 20 in the number of cases.

California is averaging 25% more deaths each day than it was two weeks ago (119 per day vs. 94), despite the average number of new cases remaining within four percentage points of where it was two weeks ago (9,215 per day vs. 8,860). In that time, hospital admissions have also leveled off statewide, up about 2% since July 13 to 6,896 patients on Monday.

California appears to have flattened a curve that had been rising rapidly, but it hasn't crushed it.

Although those numbers are relatively flat over two weeks, they remain significantly higher than six weeks ago, around the time the current spike began. Since then, the number of currently hospitalized patients has increased 107%; the average number of daily cases has risen 210%; and the daily death toll has doubled.

From Yolo in Northern California to Imperial on the Mexican border, 23 of California's 58 counties reported at least one fatality on Tuesday.

The six counties with double-digit death tolls Tuesday represented the most individual counties with at least 10 deaths in a single day since the pandemic began, according to this news organization's analysis. Central Valley jurisdictions like San Joaquin and Kern counties reported 15 and 12 fatalities, respectively, while Orange County, just south of Los Angeles, also reported 15 deaths. In the Inland Empire, San Bernardino County reported 11 deaths, its second-most in a single day.

Combined into one jurisdiction, the Bay Area would have ranked seventh in reported fatalities Tuesday, with nine spread across its nine counties. Contra Costa County added four to its death toll, followed by three in Alameda County. Santa Clara and San Mateo counties also reported one death each on Tuesday.

While Tuesday's deaths were spread across the state, different regions are experiencing different stages of the pandemic.

The Bay Area has only been bested in virus containment by the sparsely populated counties to to the north of it. Los Angeles and its neighboring counties have been managing more significant outbreaks since the spring with little respite. Meanwhile, the Central Valley, which avoided significant spread throughout April, May and June, had by the end of July become the state's new epicenter, where cases are rising fastest per-capita.

Los Angeles County was once averaging 36.9 new cases per 100,000 residents each day, but it has been surpassed by counties in the San Joaquin Valley, where the rate has soared to 54.8 new cases per 100,000 residents per day. While the rate has fallen by one-third in Los Angeles since its peak about two weeks ago, in those eight San Joaquin Valley counties, it has increased 83% in that time.

Those eight counties also combined to report 40% more fatalities Tuesday than they had on any previous day of the pandemic, coming about three weeks after cases began to spike in the region.

So while California's case numbers remain steady, it serves as a reminder that COVID-19 exists not as a singular outbreak in a country or a state but many different regional battles with the same disease.

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