After a week of rollercoaster numbers that have generally trended up, the State of California on Friday recorded its highest number of new daily Covid cases since the dark days of January. The number of new cases in the past 24 hours, 14,402, was up more than 50% from the 9,517 cases tallied just the day before. Looking back a little further, the number of new daily cases has nearly doubled in the past nine days, from 7,457 on July 28 to 14,402 on Friday.
Friday’s total is the largest one-day number of new cases since January 27, 2021. It officially puts the current peak of the 2021 summer surge above the peak of the summer surge last year, which saw 12,614 new cases on August 14, 2020. See chart below for trends.
One contributing factor is surely the rise in testing. While daily test numbers had fallen below 30,000 in the state in early July, as of Friday that data point had risen above 250,000. More tests lead to more cases being discovered. But measures not tied to test numbers, such as the 7-day average case rate per 100,000, have also risen markedly.
On Monday, that rate was 16.7 infections per 100,000. On Friday, that number clocked in at 21.1 infections per 100,000. That’s a 26% rise over the course of five days in a number that — unlike daily cases — is averaged over 7 days to minimize volatility.
Likewise the state’s 7-day test positivity rate — another trusted indicator of spread — was up from 6.9% on Monday. That’s an 8% rise. On June 15, the day the state threw off Covid-19 restrictions, the 7-day test positivity rate was 7.1% on Friday. That’s a much less critical rise, but it also coincides with a 25% rise in the number of tests, from about 194,000 on Monday to the aforementioned 250,000 on Friday. An increase in testing tends to drive infection rates down, so the fact that the 7-day test positivity rate has risen at all as testing has risen markedly is notable.
The rises have happened this week even as numbers in the state’s largest county, Los Angeles, may be plateauing. If true, that would mean the rate of spread among the other three quarters of the state’s population is even higher than the statewide averages indicate.
Los Angeles health officials suspect the decrease may be due in part to the indoor mask mandate the county implemented just over two weeks ago.
“We’re not seeing the exponential growth in cases we saw earlier. We look different in terms of the rate of increase compared to other counties. We were the only county at the end of July that’d that mandate,” said L.A. County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer on Thursday before noting that L.A.’s 22% daily cases increase over the past week is actually much lower than the 57% increase in new cases statewide over the same period. “Which is what we’re hoping for after implementing an effective public health measure,” she said.
The state meanwhile — particularly embattled Governor Gavin Newsom — resisted putting such a mask mandate in place, waiting until July 28 to make the move. That could put the state at large 10 days behind L.A. County — if residents comply and if those added 10 days didn’t put the region across an infection threshold that’s more difficult to come back from.
In fact, the lagging indicator of hospitalizations has also begun to rise markedly. On Wednesday, Covid-related hospitalizations in California had blown up 97% over the previous 10 days, bringing the total of hospitalized Covid-19 patients in the state to 5,282. The number of Covid patients in state ICUs was up at close to the same rate — 88% — to 1,135. On Friday, Covid-related hospitalizations had risen another 8.5%. to 5,732. The number of ICU patients in the state suffering from Covid on Friday had not yet been released as of 1 p.m.
Deaths related to Covid, the final lagging indicator, have also begun to slowly rise — albeit in comparatively small numbers to those seen last summer — from 15 on Saturday to 37 on Friday.
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