California’s COVID-19 outbreak may have begun to plateau, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday. But by the end of the day, the state had recorded its most new cases ever, paired with hundreds more deaths and hospitalizations.
Counties around the state, some of which reported up to four days’ worth of data Monday, combined to report 65,717 new cases Monday, according to data compiled by this news organization, over 4,000 more than the previous record set last Monday. Both figures were fueled by weekend reporting delays, but even more so this week as some counties issued their first updates since before Christmas.
In addition to the record-breaking number of infections, there were another 249 fatalities from the virus reported around the state, led by large tallies out of Southern California and parts of the Central Valley but few in the Bay Area.
At approximately 38,100 new cases and 230 deaths deaths per day over the past week, California’s daily averages remain slightly below their pre-Christmas peaks, and the pace of growth has slowed. Average daily cases have risen 16% compared to two weeks ago, and deaths are up 40%. However, in the prior two-week period, cases increased 133% and deaths by 157%. The result: a weekly death toll exceeding 1,600, when six weeks ago, approximately 300 Californians were dying from the virus every seven days.
California is poised to become the first state with 20,000 of its residents hospitalized with known cases of COVID-19 at one time. The active count grew by more than 500 patients to 19,766, as of Sunday, according to the latest data from the state. There are already more COVID-positive patients hospitalized in California than any other state throughout the pandemic. In the spring, New York’s hospitalizations peaked at 18,825, according to the COVID Tracking Project, but there were still more severe cases in its intensive care units.
While hospital admissions appeared to be leveling off in much of the state, Newsom said, the exception was in Southern California. Along with the San Joaquin Valley, it continued to report ICUs at maximum capacity. Statewide, the tally of ICU patients climbed to its highest point yet — 4,228, as of Sunday, according to the state.
In the Bay Area, available capacity sank to 9.5%, while there was slightly more space in Greater Sacramento — 16.6% — and in Northern California, with 29.3%, according to the state. Health officials are expected Tuesday afternoon to announce an extension of the stay-at-home order for Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, as hospitals continue to fill with COVID-19 patients.
Twenty-five of California’s 58 counties added to their death tolls Monday, but the majority came in the two regions with hospital systems facing the most dire conditions. In Southern California, Los Angeles, Riverside and Ventura counties combined to report as many fatalities as the entire rest of the state, with 73 in LA, 41 in Riverside and 11 in Ventura. In the San Joaquin Valley, Kern and Merced counties each reported 16 new deaths, while Tulare added 13, Stanislaus added eight, and San Joaquin reported seven additional fatalities.
Among the 10 largest death tolls in California on Monday, only two came from outside Southern California or the San Joaquin Valley. Sacramento County reported 18 fatalities, and Santa Cruz reported a record seven. In the Bay Area, only Contra Costa County’s death toll grew Monday — by two — but San Mateo County reported a record number of cases — 1,440 — and just south, so did Santa Cruz County, with 850 new cases.
Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Riverside, Ventura and San Mateo counties were all among the health departments to report multiple days of test results, and all reported record numbers of cases or deaths — or both.
Nationally, California holds a firm grasp atop the hot spot leaderboard. The per-capita infection rate here over the past week — nearly 100 per day for every 100,000 residents — is almost 20% higher than the number-two state, Arizona. Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties all rank among the 25 highest per-capita rates of infection among all counties, of any size, nationwide, according to the New York Times. Smaller Lassen and Amador counties make the list, too.
In the Bay Area, there were still about half as many infections over the past week, per-capita, than in all of California — just below the national average, which fell to about 55 daily cases per 100,000 Americans.
While California’s cases have ticked up again since Christmas, daily infections in the U.S. continue to fall, down 13% compared to two weeks ago. The country’s death toll continues to grow by about 2,200 per day, according to the Times’ data, reaching 335,000 on Monday.