California is approaching another coronavirus milestone: 9,000 deaths after a major surge in infections.
The rising death toll comes as officials are trying to slow outbreaks across the state that followed the reopening of the economy in late May and early June.
As of Thursday morning, California had recorded at least 8,912 deaths and at least 485,831 cases. Los Angeles County now has a cumulative death toll from the coronavirus of at least 4,518 and at least 183,456 confirmed cases.
The Golden State set single-day records twice this week for the number of coronavirus-related deaths. On consecutive days, California broke its daily record, with 174 deaths on Tuesday and 189 deaths on Wednesday. L.A. County confirmed a single-day record of 91 deaths Wednesday, attributing the high number to a backlog in data reporting from July 23 to Sunday.
Officials in L.A. County said Wednesday it’s essential the public follows social distancing rules and wears masks in public to slow the spread.
“I know we’re all eager and anxious to see our lives return to normal,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “We do have the tools at hand to make this a reality in the future. But we need compliance with our directives.”
Health officials say the public’s more careful social behavior, along with newly reissued restrictions on public life, has led to a recent decline in some numbers, including hospitalizations, the seven-day average for positive infections, and the projected transmission rate. But more cases and deaths continue to be reported each day.
“When we let our guard down, the virus spreads,” county Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly said.
In the San Joaquin Valley, an eight-county region of the Central Valley stretching from Stockton to Bakersfield, pandemic conditions have deteriorated dramatically. In the week-long period that ended on Memorial Day, 42 residents there died of COVID-19; in the seven-day period that ended Monday, 105 residents had died.
Deaths also are on the upswing in the seven-county Sacramento region. Over the same time period, weekly deaths rose from four to 25.
The nine-county San Francisco Bay Area has seen its weekly death toll nearly triple in the same time period — from 20 to 57; San Diego County’s weekly death toll almost doubled over the same time period, from 28 to 55.
The five-county Southern California area — L.A., Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties — has seen weekly deaths increase from 357 to 493 in that same time period, an increase of 38%.
There are some signs that California’s most recent surge — while still growing — has started to slow down. For the week that ended Tuesday, the state recorded an average of 9,157 new confirmed cases daily, a 2% increase from the previous week. That’s a much slower increase than what happened in the week that ended July 14, when the daily average of new cases was 8,902, a 20% jump from the previous week.
In addition, the rate at which coronavirus tests are coming back positive has been stable in recent weeks statewide. A Times analysis found that California’s seven-day coronavirus positive test rate has generally stayed between 7% and 8% since July 5. Also, the effective transmission rate of the coronavirus statewide is estimated to be 1.02 — meaning every infected person, on average, transmits the virus to 1.02 other people.