The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in California climbed to a new high Thursday as the state reported more than 2,000 positive tests for the fourth time this week.
The state’s total case count rose 2.8% on Thursday to 88,323 — 18% higher than last Thursday vs. 20% growth the week before that, according to data compiled by this news organization. For the first time of the outbreak, the state has reported at least 2,000 new cases for three days in a row, and it is averaging nearly that many each day over the past week.
Deaths are nearing a new peak statewide, as well, after another 105 fatalities from the virus were reported Thursday. The seven-day average of fatalities has only been higher during one stretch in mid-April. On three of the past seven days, there have been more than 2,000 new cases and over 100 deaths — a morbid milestone that hadn’t occurred prior to this week. Those three days also account for three of the four deadliest since the outbreak began.
The pace of growth is creeping up in the Bay Area but remains far off the pace of its peak during the first two weeks of April. There were 180 new cases across the region Thursday, even with its largest county, Santa Clara, not reporting due to technical errors. The seven-day average across its 10 counties is at its highest in a month (181.29), but still less than three-fourths of where it peaked about six weeks ago (249.71).
The recent growth in the Bay Area has largely been fueled by Alameda County, which has reported more cases this week than at any point since the outbreak began (about 53 per day, 18% higher than a week ago). It is, however, one of a handful of counties in the state that does not report testing data, so it’s unclear if the rise can be attributed to expanded detection of existing cases or spread of new infections.
Hospitalizations in the region were at their lowest levels since March earlier this week but have began to rise again, with a particularly high number of new patients over the past two days suspected — but not yet confirmed — to have the virus. Confirmed cases in hospitals were up 5% since their low earlier in the week, but when suspected cases are included, hospitalizations are up 33% in the past three days.
Although new cases appear to be on the rise in the Bay Area, the majority of the statewide growth continues to occur in five Southern California counties. Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties accounted for 77% of the new cases Thursday and 88% of the day’s fatalities, despite comprising about half of California’s 40 million residents.
Statewide, the recent growth can be explained in part by increased testing. Labs have performed 20% more tests this week than last — about 45,000 per day — with the percent that come back positive down from 4.8% to 4.1%. Across the state in the past week, there has been about 1.13 tests per 1,000 people per day — short of individual counties’ requirement of 1.5 per 1,000 each day in order to move into the next stage of reopening. The ability to detect and isolate new cases is one key to preventing another surge upon resuming normal life.
Because of the virus’ incubation period of up to 14 days, plus the time between being tested and receiving the result, new cases being detected this week could reflect infections that occurred as far back as late April. As the majority of California begins to partially reopen, any effect on infection rates likely won’t be reflected until June.
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Author: Evan Webeck