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Coronavirus death toll in California jumps, exceeds 100 for first time since early June

After weeks of declining mortality, the daily death toll from COVID-19 in California exceeded 100 on Tuesday for the sixth time of the pandemic, while new cases continued to rise at a pace not seen before this week.

There were 107 fatalities from the virus reported around the state Tuesday, according to data compiled by this news organization, the state’s deadliest day since June 10 and only the second day of June with more than 100 deaths. There were also about as many new cases as Monday, which had shattered the previous reporting record with 8,184 new cases; on Tuesday, another 8,188 cases were added to bring the cumulative count to 230,764.

Hospitalizations hit a new high statewide and neared their mid-April peak in the Bay Area. The 423 patients hospitalized in the region is the most since April 20 and 60% higher than a week ago. Statewide, hospitalizations have risen 32% in the past week to 5,047. In Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the nation, officials are concerned about hitting ICU capacity; there were only 24 intensive-care unit beds left on Tuesday, according to one health department adviser.

Cases in the Bay Area also hit a new high Tuesday, with the 10 counties combining to report 830 new cases, including daily records in Alameda (202) and Solano (162), while Contra Costa (161) was eight short of the mark it set Monday. Alameda leads the region in currently hospitalized patients with 111, a 44% increase from a week ago. Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, San Bernardino, Kern, San Joaquin, Fresno and Stanislaus counties all have more patients hospitalized than any county in the Bay Area.

Having not exceeded 4,500 cases in a day prior to last week, the state has only once in the past eight days reported fewer than 4,500 in a day. The seven-day average of new cases, which was at 4,601 a week ago, is now 5,715 — an increase of 24% and its highest point of the pandemic. Meanwhile, the the state is testing 20% more people each day than it was last week. After a sharp uptick from below 5% to nearly 6%, the test-positivity rate has remained stubbornly at 5.9% for the past four days.

On a per-capita basis, California is testing more of its residents than all but six states and Washington, D.C., while its positivity rate remains in the middle of the pack. The rates in other states experiencing surges in the virus are, in some cases, triple that of California’s. Over the past week, 22.9% of tests in Arizona are coming back positive, 16.1% in Florida, 15.4% in Nevada and 14.6% in Texas.

For as long as cases have been rising, deaths have not followed. Even as new cases ticked up, the daily average of deaths remained around 60, down from a peak of 80 per day in late April. The Bay Area, where the spike in cases came about a week after other parts of the state, has so far been spared the worst of the virus. Its 10 counties accounted for six of the 107 deaths (5.6%) Tuesday, while Los Angeles, Riverside, Imperial and Orange counties all reported at least 10 deaths as the statewide toll hit 6,083.

However, Dr. Anthony Fauci and other health experts have cautioned that deaths are a lagging indicator and similar increases could be on the horizon. It can take up to two weeks for symptoms to appear, followed by the wait to receive test results. It can take another week for those symptoms to require medical assistance. Once a patient has been hospitalized, the outcome and timeline can vary. All to say, an uptick in deaths this week could reflect infections from up to, or possibly even prior to, a month ago.

Many people have pointed to the mass protests following the death of George Floyd as coinciding with the rise in cases. But one study published last week threw that theory into question, showing almost no correlation between large protests and outbreaks of the virus. It was around the same time that counties in California began wider reopening, including bars and indoor dining in some places.

Epidemiologists say the highest risk of spread is in tightly packed, indoor spaces, where there is little air circulation.

“Bars: really not good, really not good,” Fauci said at a congressional hearing Tuesday. “Congregation at a bar, inside, is bad news. We really have got to stop that.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered bars to close in Los Angeles and six other counties over weekend. On Tuesday, he hinted at more restrictions and possible enforcement for the statewide mask mandate coming prior to the Independence Day holiday weekend.

“Our framework is this: If you are not going to stay at home, and you are not going to wear masks in public, we have to enforce,” Newsom said Tuesday at his daily news conference.

Source: Orange County Register

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