California has reached its largest, grimmest milestone yet in the COVID-19 pandemic: One million cases, or one infection for about every 40 residents of the state, according to data compiled by this news organization.
The million-case milestone comes as the third and largest wave of the virus yet is sweeping across the nation, with 49 states reporting rising numbers of cases and active hospitalizations at an all-time high nationwide. A report of 2,533 new cases in Los Angeles County pushed California over the 1 million mark, after a smattering of positive tests from other counties Thursday morning.
The nation’s most populous state crossed the 1 million mark one day after the second-most populous state, Texas, recorded its millionth case of the virus. This week, California has recorded its two highest daily case counts since August, and its daily average has soared 36% in the past two weeks. Nationwide, the the daily average is up 69% from two weeks to well over 120,000 new cases per day.
California’s cumulative case count neared the 1 million mark Wednesday, but a number of a counties didn’t issue updates on the Veterans Day holiday. Those that did combined to report 4,877 new cases of the virus Wednesday, according to data compiled by this news organization, far short of the more than 8,000 reported the past two days, on average. After Wednesday, California was averaging about 6,285 cases per day over the past week.
California surpassed New York for the most cumulative cases near the end of July, when both states were nearing the 500,000-case threshold. It remained the national leader in cases through much of October, but shortly after it became the first to reach 900,000 total cases, Texas overtook it and has only widened its lead.
As California crossed 1 million cases Thursday, Texas was about 50,000 ahead, according to the New York Times’ count, while the next-closest state, Florida, had just crossed 850,000 cases.
In a reversal of the earlier days of the pandemic, cases are now rising faster in the Bay Area than most elsewhere in California.
The region’s daily average has risen by 67% in the past two weeks — closer to the rate nationally than in California. However, the infection rate per-capita in the Bay Area is still about one-third of that nationwide.
In the past week, about 78 Bay Area residents have been infected with COVID-19 for every 100,000 residents, compared to a rate of about about 273/100K nationally and about 111/100K in all of California.
In some small communities in the Sierra Nevada mountains, namely sparsely populated Mono, Lassen and Alpine counties, there are per-capita infection rates approaching some of those in the hardest-hit states — at least 475 weekly infections for every 100,000 residents (though all have populations far smaller than 100,000). Altogether, compared to two weeks ago, cases in those three counties have grown exponentially — by a factor of nearly nine.
And in Los Angeles County, the most-populous county in the nation where the 330,000 some cases are also the most of anywhere in the country, the daily average has crept back above 2,000 cases per day for the first time since mid-August — up 42% just in the past week.
In the Midwest, a handful of states are reporting about as many new cases per day, on average, as California is in a week, when accounting for population. In North and South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Nebraska, there have been at least 100 new cases per 100,000 residents per day in the past week.
While about one in 40 Californians has been infected over the course of the pandemic, one in every 84 residents of North Dakota has been infected just in the past week.
In Texas, which surpassed 1 million cases a day prior to California despite a population about three-quarters the size, there were nearly 50% more cases reported in the past week, equating to a per-capita infection rate twice that of California.
There are also about 70% more patients currently hospitalized in Texas than in California, according to the COVID Tracking Project. It is one of two states, along with Illinois, to have more active hospitalizations than California, despite smaller populations; all but seven states have more patients hospitalized per-capita.
In California, hospitalizations have risen by about 38% in the past two weeks and are at their highest level since the first week of September. Nationally, hospitalizations are up about 48% from two weeks and at their highest point of the pandemic — more than 65,000 total Americans hospitalized on Wednesday alone, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
The U.S. is closing in on a more morbid milestone: the 250,000th American death from COVID-19. On each of the past two days, the U.S. has reported more deaths — more than 1,400 each day — than on all but one other day since the initial outbreak this spring. As of Thursday, more than 242,000 Americans had perished from the novel coronavirus — more than have died in all of America’s wars since 1950 and the most of any country in the world.