Daily California virus cases triple as pandemic worsens
California's average daily number of coronavirus cases has tripled in the last month, a Times analysis has found, as pandemic conditions deteriorated dramatically around the state.
The coronavirus is now infecting more Californians daily than at any previous point in the COVID-19 pandemic, raising concerns about a new peak in coronavirus-related deaths by Christmas.
As of Saturday night, California was averaging more than 11,500 new coronavirus cases a day over the last seven days, more than triple the number a month earlier, on Oct. 21, which was nearly 3,200, according to a Times analysis.
Even during the summertime surge, which led to the season with California's worst COVID-19 death toll, the average daily number of coronavirus cases over a seven-day period never exceeded 10,000.
COVID-19 hospitalizations have doubled in the last month, the analysis found. And COVID-19 deaths have suddenly begun to climb in recent days. In the last week, an average of 65 Californian deaths have been reported daily, a more than 50% increase from two weeks ago, when 43 fatalities were reported daily on average.
The rate at which Californians are testing positive for the coronavirus was up dramatically in the last week — a troubling indication of the rapid spread of the highly contagious virus. On Saturday, the coronavirus positivity rate hit 6.1%, double the percentage it was on Nov. 1, when the rate was 2.98%.
On Saturday, San Diego and San Bernardino counties both recorded their highest single-day coronavirus case totals in the history of the pandemic, according to health officials.
Los Angeles County is now on pace to cross a grim marker that would require outdoor restaurant dining areas to shut down as early as this week. According to a Times analysis, as of Saturday night, L.A. County was averaging 3,907 cases a day over the last five days, roughly double the number from just two weeks ago.
Saturday continued a disturbing trend of daily case counts surpassing 4,000. On Saturday, 4,387 coronavirus cases were reported, according to an independent Times tally of coronavirus cases; on Friday, 4,158 were reported; and on Thursday, 4,943 were tallied, a single-day record.
If L.A. County averages 4,000 cases daily over a five-day period, officials have said they will plan to require the closure of outdoor restaurant dining areas, which would restrict eateries to serving food only by takeout and delivery for the first time since May. Officials said they plan to give three days' notice before such a new health order would become effective.
And should L.A. County average 4,500 cases daily over a five-day period, officials have warned that they will impose a springtime style stay-at-home order.
Daily deaths are also starting to climb in L.A. County. On Saturday, an average of 23 residents in Los Angeles County were reported to be dying from COVID-19 daily over the previous seven days; that's double the figure from early November, when about 11 people were dying a day.
There are a number of reasons for the sudden surge in coronavirus cases in California, where a surge began in late October.
They include the colder weather, which encourages people to stay indoors; increased travel from other harder-hit states; gatherings to watch the NBA Finals and the World Series, won by the Lakers and Dodgers, respectively; Halloween; protests and celebrations related to the election; a general increase in social gatherings; an increase in workplace outbreaks; a premature feeling that the danger of the pandemic had passed; and fatigue and even resentment of continuing with COVID-19 safety precautions, according to state and local health officials.
Cumulatively, California has recorded 1.1 million coronavirus cases and more than 18,700 deaths. Nationally, more than 12 million coronavirus cases have been diagnosed and more than 255,000 people in the U.S. have died.
Federal, state and local authorities are urging people to stay home for Thanksgiving and abandon Thanksgiving travel plans, whether it be a cross-country plane flight or a drive across town, to avoid spreading the virus at celebrations. The virus can be transmitted by people who seem perfectly healthy and never fall sick.
A travel advisory issued by California in mid-November implored residents to avoid nonessential out-of-state travel and asks those who arrive from outside of the state to quarantine for 14 days, meaning they should stay at home or other lodging as much as possible during that time and order food by delivery.
L.A. County's director of public health, Barbara Ferrer, urged college students living on campus to not return home just for the Thanksgiving holiday. Students who do end up returning home for a month or more, she said, should quarantine in separate rooms for as much as possible for a 14-day period. If they haven't yet returned home, she advised that it's too late for them to partake in communal Thanksgiving celebrations, which risks spreading the virus to the rest of the family and friends.