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Coronavirus: Another metric shows COVID-19 worsening in California

California’s rate of positive tests for COVID-19 climbed to more than 8% over the weekend — one of the state’s own metrics for determining whether transmission of the virus is rising — before falling back to 7.7% with Monday’s results.

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Another 9,399 Californians tested positive for the virus Monday, a steep drop off from the previous Monday, which included up to three days worth of results from the Independence Day weekend. That resulted in the seven-day average falling to 8,693 cases per day around the state, down from 9,727 the previous day, which included the inflated data from the previous weekend. That number, however, is still 23% higher than a week ago.

The new cases Monday rank as the fifth most reported on any single day of the outbreak, but they also came with a record 137,766 test results. The average number of daily deaths this week was at 92 after another 48 fatalities were reported around the state Monday, led by 13 in Los Angeles and Riverside counties.

The World Health Organization recommends a test-positivity rate below 5% for 14 days before reopening. In California, a seven-day rate of 8% coupled with an average of at least 25 cases per 100,000 residents per day for two weeks will land a county on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s watch list.

As of Monday, there were 23 counties with rates above the state threshold (and six that don’t report testing data, including Alameda), according to data compiled by this news organization, with Contra Costa and Marin just below it, at 7.9% and 7.1%, respectively. Solano County, at 9.5%, was the only Bay Area county above 8%. San Francisco, Santa Clara and Napa were all below 5%.

It was exactly three weeks ago that the statewide positivity rate was last beneath 5%, where it had remained for most of May and June. At the time, Newsom called each decimal point “profoundly impactful.” In the three weeks since, the rate has risen a full percentage point each week. The 8.3% rate Sunday was the highest it has been since late April, when the state was testing fewer than 10,000 people per day.

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And yet 17 states have had a higher percentage of their tests come back positive over the past week. California’s 7.7% rate is tied with North Carolina and still well below the eye-popping rates at the top of the list (Arizona: 26.5%; Mississippi: 18.9%; Florida: 18.6%). Nationwide, the positivity rate has followed a similar trend to California, rising to 8.8% Sunday before falling a tenth of a point Monday — still nearly twice what it was a month ago.

The number of patients hospitalized with the virus also rose to a new high Sunday both in California and the Bay Area. Statewide, there were 6,485 patients hospitalized Sunday, 36% more than two weeks ago, while the number of those in intensive care units crossed 2,000 for the first time in recent days.

“As we see positivity rates increase, as I say often, you will see the lagging indicator of hospitalizations begin to increase,” Newsom said Monday.

In the Bay Area, hospitalizations have increased at nearly twice the statewide rate: a 62% increase in the past two weeks to 606 patients Sunday, fueled mostly by Contra Costa County (+146% in that time), Sonoma (+127%), Marin (+93%) and San Mateo County (+89%). Hospitalizations are also up 47% and 55% in Alameda and Santa Clara counties over that time.

With concerning metrics on the rise across the state, Newsom on Monday ordered all indoor restaurants, bars, theaters, zoos and museums to cease operations and added more counties to the state watch list. In those counties, which numbered 30 on Monday and comprised 80% of the state’s population, gyms, places of worship, indoor malls and nonessential offices were also forced to close.

In San Mateo County, the only place in the Bay Area where indoor dining had resumed, restaurants that had already opened their dining rooms had to shut them down again. In Santa Clara County, Monday’s long-awaited opening for hairdressers was met almost immediately with the news that they would have to close again by Wednesday.

The cumulative case count in California crossed 332,000 on Monday, while the death toll climbed to 7,088. In the U.S., the death toll reached 135,000 on Monday. The total number of cases nationwide neared 3.4 million Tuesday, as the U.S. reported positive tests at a rate of 60,000 per day over the past week — higher than any other point of the pandemic.

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