Yet again on Monday, California blew past its previous record for COVID-19 cases in a day and for the first time of the pandemic reported more than 70,000 over the past 24 hours in the first potential sign of a “surge on top of a surge” Gov. Gavin Newsom warned of Monday.
Paired with the record 70,453 new cases around the state were another 379 fatalities, according to data compiled by this news organization, California’s sixth-highest daily death toll of the pandemic. More than 27,000 Californians have perished over the course of the pandemic, including a record 2,476 in the past week, or an average of about 354 per day, and 2.45 million have been infected.
While Mondays typically bring large case numbers — each of the past seven now has set a record on the weight of many counties reporting up to three days worth of data — the latest record was about 7% larger than the one set last week. Seven weeks ago, when this grim streak of milestones began, California set a daily record with just over 20,000 cases, less than a third of its latest record.
Despite the record cases Monday, California’s average daily infections have remained stable since Christmas, climbing slightly to about 36,560 per day over the past week. That’s about 18% fewer cases than two weeks ago, but in that same time, average daily deaths have jumped by 43%. State and local officials have also warned of a fresh wave of infections from holiday gatherings, including Christmas, which should begin to show up this week, and New Year’s, which may not be fully clear until next week.
“We have foreshadowed this,” Newsom said Monday, “based on our own planning, our own modeling, the expectation of a lull before a surge on top of a surge, coming … we believe in the next days and weeks from the holiday season.”
Fatalities are already beginning to stack up in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, where hospitals have been operating in surge capacity for over two straight weeks. In Los Angeles County, ambulances have been told to ration oxygen and to not take patients with little chance of surviving to the hospital.
Across California, there were 21,128 COVID-positive patients hospitalized, as of Sunday, according to the latest figures from the state, including 4,584 receiving intensive care, both record highs for the state.
Of the 379 fatalities statewide on Monday, only 56 came from outside of Southern California or the San Joaquin Valley, and of those, 41 occurred in Sacramento County. Riverside County, which reported four days of data, led the state with 111 fatalities and over 17,000 cases, both of which were new highs, followed by 77 deaths in Los Angeles County. Orange County, which followed with nearly 9,000 new cases and 25 deaths on Monday, issued its second update of the new year; Ventura County reported a record 26 fatalities and nearly 4,000 new cases after not reporting for the past three days.
Also among the counties to report multiple days of data were San Mateo, which reported its second-largest case tally with 1,135, and Solano, which set a record with 1,742 new cases. However, there were few deaths Monday in the Bay Area: two in Solano County and one in Marin. ICU capacity in the region remained below the state-mandated 15% threshold but well above overextended hospitals in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, at 7.9% as of Monday, according to the state.
Over the past week, the Southern California region, which encompasses about 60% of the state’s population, has accounted for 77% of the fatalities from COVID-19 in California and 75% of the infections. Over the past two weeks, its surge in deaths has outpaced the rest of the state, with its average daily death toll growing by nearly two-thirds. By contrast, in the Bay Area, average daily deaths have decreased by about 7% in the past two weeks, and the region has accounted for about 8% of the statewide death toll in the past week, despite making up just over 20% of California’s population.
While California has been overtaken as the national leader in per-capita infections over the past week, the Southern California region would still rank atop the state leaderboard with approximately 116.5 daily cases for every 100,000 residents. In the Bay Area, the rate was about 46.8 cases per day per 100,000 residents. Statewide, the infection rate of about 92.5/100K over the past week ranks behind only Arizona, Rhode Island and Tennessee, according to data collected by the New York Times.
Nationally, at least 20.8 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19, including an average of nearly 215,000 per day over the past week — a per-capita rate of about 65.3/100K — close to its peak of about 218,000 cases per day prior to Christmas, according to the Times’ data. More than 353,000 Americans have now perished from the virus, including an average of more than 2,600 per day over the past week and close to the equivalent of one September 11 terrorist attack every day and a half since the start of December.