Despite widespread improvements, February has already become California’s second-deadliest month of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 in California continued to fall Thursday, according to data compiled by this news organization, but with 425 new fatalities, the death toll over the month’s first 18 days increased to 7,426, more than any month of the pandemic besides January, when the state recorded nearly 15,000 coronavirus deaths. Already, the first six-plus weeks of the new year have been nearly as deadly as the prior nine months of the pandemic.
On Thursday, though, California closed in on five straight weeks of declining cases and hospitalizations, with deaths following close behind.
With 7,244 new cases Thursday, California’s daily average over the past week fell to about 7,370, less than half its average daily tally two weeks ago and 85% lower than its peak about five weeks ago. Tests over the past week have come back positive at a rate of 3.2%, California’s lowest positivity rate since Election Day, Nov. 3.
Hospitalizations in California have fallen by an average of more than 300 per day over the past week and have fallen every day for the past five weeks. On Wednesday, the active total dropped below 8,000 for the first time since the end of November. At the current pace, hospitalizations should fall below their previous summer high next week and could reach an all-time low in the next 16 days. By this time next month, according to state models, there are projected to be fewer Californians hospitalized with COVID-19 than any other point of the pandemic.
Those same models projected California’s death toll to grow by another 10,000 in February, second only to January as the state’s deadliest month of the pandemic. With 10 days in the month, it has already surpassed last December as California’s second-deadliest month of the pandemic. By March 6, state models project the death toll to exceed 53,000, which would equate to about 350 deaths per day for the next two weeks.
Deaths have been decreasing for close to three weeks, though the virus continues to claim the lives of substantially more Californians each day than any time prior to this winter. On Thursday, the state’s death toll grew by 425, to a total of 48,349 since the onset of the pandemic nearly a year ago. More than 2,300 deaths have been reported around California over the past week — an average of about 335 per day — two-thirds the total of two weeks ago but more than twice as many than any week prior to December.
In Los Angeles County, the declines in cases and deaths have outpaced the state but it still dominated the totals Thursday, with 146 deaths and more than 2,600 new cases. In total, counties in Southern California accounted for about 70% of the statewide fatalities on Thursday, about in-line with their share over the course of the pandemic, despite making up less than 60% of the state’s population.
In the Bay Area, there were another 38 deaths from COVID-19, led by 26 in Santa Clara County, which has recorded the most fatalities of any county in the region and the sixth-highest total in the state. On a per-capita basis, however, even the Bay Area’s worst-faring county ranks outside the top 20 counties statewide in deaths as a proportion of population.
Dan Carter was a reporter for nomad Labs, before becoming the lead editor. Dan has over forty bylines and has reported on countless stories concerning all things related to tech and science. Dan studied at CSUF.