A summer surge ravages agricultural areas
Beginning in May, cases per person skyrocketed in the rural farming communities of San Joaquin Valley and along the border in Imperial County.
Hard hit were low-income essential workers, many of them working in the fields and living in crowded housing.
By July, Imperial County’s two hospitals were overwhelmed. Hundreds of patients had to be transported elsewhere for treatment. To date, one out of every seven residents in the county has tested positive. More than 500 have died.
The spread in the state’s Central Valley wasn’t limited to the fields. Outbreaks were reported at state prisons all across the state.
Before the end of July, the virus had spread to California’s most remote reaches. That’s when the first cases were reported in Modoc County, near the Oregon border. All 58 of the state’s counties had recorded a case of the coronavirus.
By August, the coronavirus had spread to all 58 counties
As the summer surge faded, Newsom introduced a color-coded system that allowed some counties to begin reopening in September and October.
Cases triple as the virus overwhelms the state
The reprieve was short-lived. The last weeks of October saw a slight uptick in cases across the state, soon followed by an unprecedented surge.
Experts say pandemic fatigue and a sense that the threat was over played a role. At Thanksgiving, a record number of people traveled for the first time since the spring. It was soon clear an influx of new coronavirus patients would create a crisis in California’s hospitals.
The virus surged in cities, prisons and some of the most isolated communities.
On Nov. 13, 292 days after that late night press release was issued by Orange County officials, the state surpassed 1 million coronavirus cases.
State officials announced a curfew. Thirty-one counties saw record highs in new daily cases before Thanksgiving. A new region-based stay-at-home order went into effect. Then on Christmas Eve, the state hit 2 million total cases, doubling in just 41 days.
Just 30 days later, the state surpassed three million total cases. At least one out of 13 Californians had tested positive.
Case rates spiked dramatically in the winter months
Vaccines arrive as the surge subsides
In late December, hope emerged. The first COVID-19 vaccinations were rolled out to healthcare workers and nursing home residents. Daily case counts began to drop in January.
The state’s vaccination campaign has been shaky at best, marked by missed goals, limited supply and data reporting problems.
One year after the crisis began, Southern California — particularly Los Angeles — again has the highest concentration of cases. To date, one in every nine residents of L.A. County has tested positive.
Experts warn that there still remains a possibility for another surge.
Times staff writer Rong-Gong Lin II contributed to this story. Ryan Menezes and Ryan Murphy provided additional programming.