Even as COVID-19 transmission appears to be increasing across California, it is being outpaced by most other states and, according to the New York Times, is no longer the national leader in overall cases.
The state’s daily average of new cases remained elevated from where it had been for about a month after counties around the state reported another 4,959 cases of the virus Monday, according to data compiled by this news organization. At about 4,420 per day, California is averaging about 43% more cases now than it was two weeks ago, with new spikes in nearly every population center of the state.
Over the weekend, California crossed the 900,000-case milestone. But by the time it reached 910,000 cases, as it did Monday, Texas had overtaken it in total cases, with more than 916,000, according to the data collected by New York Times. Like this news organization, the Times collects data from local health departments, which report new cases before they are reflected in the official state tally.
Data from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services show 867,075 confirmed cases, while data from the California Department of Public Health show 901,010 confirmed cases as of Monday.
California, home to some 39.5 million people, became the national leader in cumulative cases in the third week of July — in retrospect, at the height of this summer’s second wave — when it passed New York, with just short of 420,000 cases at the time. In the three months since, the virus waned but has now come roaring back with signs of rising transmission in nearly all 50 states.
Texas, with about 10 million fewer residents, experienced a similar summer surge to California’s — only with more cases, hospitalizations and deaths per-capita. Each state corralled that outbreak and plateaued through the early fall, but in California, that was at one of the lowest infection rates in the nation — between 7.5 and 9 cases per 100,000 per day. In Texas, the per-capita rate has not fallen below 12 cases per 100,000 per day.
Now, Texas is reporting about 40% more new cases per day than California, despite a population about three-fourths the size. Like nearly everywhere else in the country, cases are on the rise in both states; each has reported nearly identical 43% increases in the past two weeks.
The Lone Star State had already surpassed California’s death toll, though both trail New York by a wide margin. On Monday, California reported an additional 40 fatalities, according to data compiled by this news organization, which increased its total to 17,400, or about a thousand shy of the total in Texas. On a per-capita basis, California’s overall death toll ranks 23rd among all states — about four times lower than the highest rate in New Jersey and one-third lower than the national average.
Unlike this summer, neither Sunbelt State is at the heart of the third wave sweeping across the country. Nine of the 10 highest infection rates, per-capita, in the past week are in Midwestern or Mountain West states, according to the Times’ data, and those at the top — North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Montana — have rates eclipsing the highest seen at previous peaks.
In Idaho, which has the sixth-highest per-capita infection rate, hospitals will reportedly soon begin triaging patients to facilities in Seattle and Portland. In Utah, where the per-capita rate is seventh-highest, hospitals have warned they will soon have to ration care for patients.
Nationwide, hospitalizations have soared by 45% in the past month, according to the COVID Tracking Project. In California, there were still about 4% fewer patients currently hospitalized than there were a month ago, according to the latest data from CDPH. However, health experts have said hospitalizations are a lagging indicator and can trail cases by two to three weeks; California’s recent increase has only occurred in the past week.
There is another metric that indicates California’s increase in cases reflects a real rise in transmission: the statewide positivity rate, which had fallen to an all-time low of 2.4% last Monday, increased by a full point in less than a week to 3.4% as of Sunday. On Monday, it fell back to 3.2% for a net increase of four-fifths of a point in the span of a week — its most rapid rise since early August.
The positivity rate has increased similarly nationwide — up a full point in the past week — but is still nearly double that of California’s, where the 3.2% rate is still lower than all but nine states and Washington, D.C. Nationally, 6.3% of tests came back positive in the past week — the highest rate of positive tests since early August, or the tail end of this summer’s second wave.