California on Tuesday overtook New York in overall deaths from COVID-19, reclaiming the ignominious title 11 months after the first American to die from the coronavirus was discovered in the Golden State.
The death toll in California grew by another 513 on Tuesday, according to data compiled by this news organization, to 44,996 since the onset of the pandemic nearly a year ago. Although New York’s devastating wave last spring has not been replicated anywhere else in the country, California, a state with double the population of New York and 10 million more people than any other state, has recorded its deadliest period of the pandemic over the past two months, reporting deaths at triple the pace of New York in the past week.
However, even deaths, considered to be the final lagging indicator of an outbreak, have begun to hit a downturn, now about a month removed from the first signs of cases and hospitalizations leveling off. California’s curve has followed a similar trajectory to the country’s, which has also begun to see diminishing numbers of new cases and deaths, as well as active hospitalizations.
In California, the average number of new cases continued to fall Tuesday, after there were 10,913 reported around the state. At approximately 12,320 per day over the past week, California has cut its cases nearly in half from two weeks ago, a 47% decline, but infections are still coming at a rate higher than any point prior to the winter wave. The number of Californians hospitalized with COVID-19 has fallen 35% in the past two weeks to 11,198, as of Monday, its lowest point in over two months but still well above any point prior to Thanksgiving.
But California’s death toll has grown by more than 3,100 just in the past week — an average of 445 per day — nearly 20% fewer than two weeks ago but still triple any seven-day period outside of this winter. Two in every five Californians to have perished over the entire pandemic have died since the calendar turned to 2021. Since the new year began, California has recorded more than 18,500 fatalities from COVID-19, compared to just over 7,200 in New York, more than 12,000 in Texas and about 6,500 in Florida — the three states with the next-highest cumulative death tolls (and populations).
During April, New York’s deadliest month of the pandemic, it recorded nearly 21,300 casualties, more than the nearly 15,000 lives lost in California last month with about half the population.
On a per-capita basis, California comes in below all three of its fellow large states, including a death rate over the course of the pandemic less than half that of New York, which ranks behind only neighboring New Jersey in lives lost per-capita.
As cases have fallen quickly in California, so has its position on the national leaderboard of states’ infection rates. At approximately 31.2 daily cases per 100,000 residents over the past week, California has gone from the top spot all the way to 20th, according to the New York Times. However, only six other states have a higher proportion of their residents still being treated for the disease in hospitals, according to the COVID Tracking Project; none has a higher overall count of active hospitalizations.
In the Bay Area, cases have fallen drastically enough that some local counties are beginning to sniff advanced reopening tiers.
There was no movement locally in the weekly update provided Tuesday, but the new state data did show a number of counties closing in on possibly moving on to the red reopening tier, which requires an adjusted case rate of 7/100K or lower and a positivity rate below 8%.
In San Francisco, the adjusted case rate — a state metric that accounts for testing at a high capacity — had fallen to 11.4/100K with a positivity rate of 2.7%, both the lowest of any county in the region and any densely populated county in the state. Across the Golden Gate, Marin County is not far behind with an adjusted case rate of 15.6/100K and a positivity rate of 3.6%. Alameda, Santa Clara, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties also have adjusted case rates below 20/100K, and every county in the region already meets the positivity rate threshold for the red tier.
Most of Southern California and the southern and western portions of the San Joaquin Valley remained deep within the most restrictive reopening tier, with adjusted case rates in nearly every county still three to five times higher than the red-tier threshold.
Southern California continued to account for the largest share of the deaths in the state, but a number of Bay Area counties also reported double-digit death tolls on Tuesday. There was a total of 77 reported around the region, including 30 in Santa Clara County, 14 in Contra Costa County, 11 in San Mateo County and 10 in Alameda County.
Counties in Southern California accounted for the top four most fatalities reported on Tuesday and 70% of the statewide total, led by 225 in Los Angeles County, 37 in Riverside County, 33 in Orange County and 32 in San Diego County.