As new coronavirus cases approach all-time highs at the national level, California’s COVID-19 activity has stayed mostly flat since mid-September.
The U.S. had nearly 72,000 new infections confirmed Thursday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That marks the fourth-highest total over the course of the pandemic, and the biggest single-day case increase since late July.
The surge has been driven by weeks of intense spikes concentrated mainly in the Midwest, recent data show. West Coast states have held steadier in recent weeks, not showing signs of serious upticks like they did in spring and summer.
Daily new cases in California, as a two-week rolling average, have stayed between 3,100 and 3,400 since Oct. 1, according to the California Department of Public Health. That rate is roughly one-third the peak observed in the summer. Similarly, the rolling average for the rate of diagnostic tests returning positive has held between 2.5% and 2.8% in that span. Those percentages are the state’s lowest since data collection began, and are also about one-third of the summer peak, which was 7.5%.
In late September, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly warned that the state’s data projections predicted a near doubling of hospitalized coronavirus patients statewide, from 2,600 at that point to 4,800 by late October.
Fortunately, the anticipated hospital spike hasn’t happened, state data show. The number of patients in hospital beds with confirmed COVID-19 has stayed between 2,200 and 2,350, give or take a handful, since Oct. 1. The total of those in intensive care units with the respiratory disease has ranged from 600 to 680.
In other words, the data reflect California has been on a firm plateau of COVID-19 activity. From late August through the first half of September, it had been more of a steady decline. The state since Sept. 1 has been gradually allowing numerous types of businesses to reopen in a growing list of counties with reduced virus numbers, moving more than two dozen counties out of the most restrictive “purple” tier in a new reopening framework that began on that date.
The incoming challenges to the plateau are no secret at this point, and none are particularly unique to California. Halloween, Election Day, Thanksgiving and winter holidays will test adherence to physical distancing and restrictions on gatherings. Cooler and potentially wetter weather will drive people from outdoor to indoor gatherings, where health experts say spread of the virus appears to be much more likely. And K-12 school districts will likely draw closer attention at the local and state levels as more and more reopen for on-campus learning across the state.
To date, California has reported 886,865 lab-confirmed coronavirus cases and 17,262 deaths from COVID-19, according to CDPH data updated Friday.
The state added 6,141 new cases in Friday’s update, which would be the most in a day since late August, but CDPH reports that the high total includes about 2,000 backlogged cases out of Los Angeles County “due to technical issues with data reporting systems (in the county) over the last few days.
The state continues to average close to 60 newly reported virus deaths per day.
World records biggest daily infection total of pandemic
Thursday marked the largest one-day case total of the entire global health crisis, according to Johns Hopkins data: over 468,000 new infections were reported worldwide.
That blew past a daily record of 443,000 set just one day earlier, and it marked the fifth day since Oct. 15 with more than 400,000 new global cases of COVID-19, according to the university’s data tracker. No prior day had reached that mark.
In addition to the U.S. surge, Johns Hopkins data for coronavirus trends show cases soaring in multiple European nations, including Italy, France, Spain, Poland, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands; in South America, including Brazil, Colombia and Argentina; in India; and in Russia.
Through Friday morning, there have been more than 41.8 million global COVID-19 cases and 1,138,000 deaths reported from the virus. The United States makes up about one-fifth of each, at 8.4 million cases and 223,000 dead.
Next by death toll are Brazil at about 156,000, India at 117,000, Mexico at 87,000, the United Kingdom at nearly 44,500 and Italy at 37,000. Spain, France and Peru all have recorded close to 34,000 fatalities. Almost 32,000 have died in Iran. Colombia is approaching 30,000 and Argentina 28,000. Russia recently surpassed 25,000 deaths.
India is approaching the U.S. in infections, now at nearly 7.8 million. Brazil has reported over 5.3 million cases, followed by Russia at almost 1.5 million. Spain, France and Argentina have each reported a little over 1 million cases, and Colombia was at 990,000 as of Friday morning.
Latest Sacramento-area numbers: Nearly 625 dead
The six-county Sacramento region has now combined for 623 reported COVID-19 deaths and over 36,000 confirmed infections over the course of the pandemic.
Sacramento County has recorded a total of 25,264 lab-positive cases and 484 deaths. County health officials added 146 new cases Wednesday, 137 on Thursday and 170 on Friday.
The county has now reported at least 27 deaths from Oct. 1 through Oct. 19. Over 100 county residents died in September and nearly 180 in August, according to the local health office.
Hospitalizations in Sacramento increased to 90 on Friday, up from 81 a day earlier, but ICU patients dropped from 19 to 16.
The county as of Friday estimates a little under 1,700 cases can currently be considered active.
Sacramento is in the red tier. For this week’s state assessment, which examined numbers from Oct. 4-10, the county had 4.4 new daily cases per 100,000 residents (red tier) and 2.5% test positivity (orange).
Yolo County, which joined Sacramento in the red tier in late September, has reported 3,119 total infections and 58 deaths from COVID-19. Yolo reported two new deaths Wednesday afternoon, including one in Woodland and another in Winters. The county reported 21 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, 13 Wednesday and 13 Tuesday.
Yolo has six patients in hospitals with COVID-19 as of Friday, including three in intensive care, both unchanged from Thursday.
Yolo in this week’s state assessment had 5.3 new daily cases per 100,000 (red) and 2.6% test positivity (orange) for the most recent state assessment period.
Placer County surpassed 4,000 all-time infections with a Tuesday morning data update and has reported five deaths this week for an all-time total of 57 fatalities. The county added 29 cases Thursday and 36 Friday for 4,088 since the start of the pandemic.
Placer says on its hospitalization dashboard that it has 11 patients in hospital beds specifically being treated for COVID-19, including two in ICUs, both unchanged from Thursday.
Placer is in the orange tier. It reported 3.7 new daily cases per 100,000 and a test positivity of 2.1% in this week’s data table from the state, both remaining in the orange tier.
El Dorado County is one of a small number of counties to have reported deaths below double-digits, with just four since the start of the pandemic. Health officials have reported a total of 1,308 infections after reporting two new cases Thursday and four Wednesday.
No one is hospitalized with the virus in El Dorado, according to state data updated Friday.
El Dorado’s new daily cases per 100,000 were 2.1, in the orange tier but just 0.1 shy of the yellow tier, and test positivity was well within the yellow criteria at 1.2%.
Sutter County health officials have reported a total of 1,837 people positive for coronavirus and 12 dead. Sutter reported seven new cases Thursday after eight Wednesday. Five people were hospitalized with COVID-19 Thursday, but none of them were in the ICU, according to county health officials.
Sutter is in the red tier. It reported 2.7 new daily cases per 100,000 (orange) and 1.9% test positivity (yellow) for the week of Oct. 4-10.
Yuba County officials have reported a total of 1,293 infections and 10 dead. Yuba reported five new cases Thursday and nine Wednesday. One patient is hospitalized but not in an ICU.
Yuba is also in the red tier. For the recent state assessment period, Yuba County had 6.3 new daily cases per 100,000 (red) and 3.3% test positivity (orange).
The Bee’s Rosalio Ahumada and Noel Harris contributed to this story. Listen to our daily briefing: