There were substantially fewer new cases of COVID-19, as well as fatalities from the virus, around California on Sunday than there were a week ago, as the state’s case curve continued its most extensive downturn since Christmas.
With just 14 of the state’s 58 counties issuing updates Sunday, they combined to report 17,983 new cases and 201 new deaths, according to data compiled by this news organization, both lower by about a third from last Sunday, when only 15 counties reported new data. At approximately 39,700 per day, California’s average daily case count has fallen about 11% in the past week, while its average daily death toll has at least slowed its ascent. While still averaging about 513 fatalities per day — more than one every three minutes — that is only 7% higher than a week ago, compared to a 43.5% increase the previous week.
State models have adjusted to the rosier outlook and now project about 2,000 fewer Californians to be hospitalized a month from now, when last week, the same models were forecasting an increase of approximately 4,000 hospitalizations. As of Saturday, there were 20,323 COVID-positive patients hospitalized around the state, a decrease of nearly 400 in 24 hours and about 6% fewer than there were a week ago.
However, the increasing prevalence of a mutated strain and the cluster of allergic reactions to a batch of vaccines complicate what would otherwise be a rare streak of good news. Furthermore, hundreds of Californians continue to die every day from this preventable disease, a rate 10 times higher than where it stood prior to Thanksgiving. While the state’s outlook has improved, those same models predict the California’s death toll will exceed 42,000 by the second week of February, which would equate to an average of approximately 450 deaths per day for the next three weeks.
Los Angeles County and its neighbors in Southern California continue to account for the largest share of the deaths in the state. Of the 201 on Sunday, 107 came in LA County, followed by 47 in Orange County and 38 in San Diego County. The entire 11-county region has accounted for nearly three in every four deaths in the state over the past week, despite making up just over half its population.
In the Bay Area, Santa Clara, Contra Costa and Sonoma counties were the only health departments to issue updates Sunday. Santa Clara and Contra Costa each added to their respective death tolls, with five and three apiece. Region-wide, deaths spiked to an average of more than 70 per day last week, but they’ve since fallen to just below 50 per day over the past week. Comparatively, the Southern California region, which has about three times the population of the Bay Area, has reported approximately seven times as many fatalities over the past week, an average of more than 370 per day.
While California has reduced its infection rate, it remains among the highest in the nation, even on a per-capita basis. Only Arizona had a larger share of its residents contract the virus in the past week than the approximately 1 in every 100 in California. However, Southern California’s outbreak looks more like Arizona’s, while other regions in the state further north have had more success in containing the virus.
Nationwide, cases have decreased sharply from a peak following New Year’s but remain staggeringly high, at nearly 220,000 per day over the past week, according to the New York Times. Although the U.S. vaccine rollout has been plagued by delays, the country is now vaccinating people at a rate about four times higher than they are getting infected, with an average of almost 900,000 shots per day going into arms, according to tracking done by Bloomberg News. However, an average of over 3,300 Americans are still dying from the virus each day, according to the Times’ data, with the national death toll on pace to surpass 400,000 early this week.