SACRAMENTO, Calif. More than 400,700 Californians about 1 in 98 state residents have been infected by the coronavirus. Of those, 7,755 have died as of Tuesday morning.
And more Californians are currently in the hospital than at any other time during the pandemic: Nearly 7,100 people are in a hospital bed with COVID-19, and about 28% of those hospitalized patients are receiving intensive care, according to state public health data released Tuesday morning.
Hospitals in Southern California and the Central Valley are starting to feel the pressure. Other counties like Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties, which all have less than 20% of their intensive care beds available are on high alert.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced sweeping shutdowns on businesses and schools last week to slow the record-breaking number of infections and hospitalizations. It will be another week, if not longer, before local health officials see whether the closures have the intended effect.
Sacramento County health chief Dr. Peter Beilenson told The Sacramento Bee on Monday that business openings don’t appear to have contributed to virus transmission “anywhere near as much” as private gatherings are continuing to do.
Still, those reopenings may have given the false impression that the worst of the pandemic was over, county health officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye previously told the Bee.
Local and state officials continue to hammer the importance of mask-wearing and physically distancing from those not in the same household as simple but crucial ways to help slow the spread of the virus.
Over the last two weeks about 7.5% of tests are returning positive. That’s an increase from the 14-day average reported two weeks ago, when about 6.8% of tests were returning positive. The growth means the increase in cases cannot be attributed to simply more testing being conducted.
California has too many COVID-19 cases to realistically investigate and trace each new infection, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Tuesday.
“At the level of transmission we’re seeing across the state, even a very, very robust contact tracing team in every single county will have a hard time reaching out to every case,” Ghaly said. “No one has anticipated building a program to contact trace the level of cases we’re seeing here.”
The state has trained about 3,600 state workers to help counties with their contact tracing programs, which aim to reach every infected person and their contacts and convince them to quarantine. But the California Department of Public Health said nearly two-thirds of those state workers had not yet been assigned to do that work as of last week.
On Tuesday, Ghaly cited bureaucratic hurdles at the county level, including issues related to onboarding the state-trained tracers.
“Despite us having deployable staff at the state level, it takes time for a county to be able to assimilate them into their program,” Ghaly said.
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The rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases is rising quickly in the four-county Sacramento region but it remains lower than in most major U.S. metros, according to a Bee analysis of data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
The Sacramento region reported about 6,730 new cases in the four weeks between June 21 and July 19, for a rate of about 294 new cases per 100,000 residents. That’s lower than the rate of 504 new cases per 100,000 residents among all U.S. metro areas with at least 1 million residents.
But it’s also nearly 20 times higher than the rate of new infections reported in the Sacramento region from late April to late May. During that period, the Sacramento metro area had by far the lowest infection rate among large metros in the nation.
Miami, Phoenix and Orlando suffered the highest rate of new infections during the past four weeks among the 53 U.S. metros with more 1 million residents. The lowest rate of recent infections was found in Hartford, Conn., Boston and Rochester, N.Y.
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Nearly 15 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 worldwide and more than 617,000 have died as of Wednesday morning, according to data maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
About one-quarter of each about 3.9 million infections and more than 142,000 deaths have come in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins.
After the U.S., the coronavirus has hit hardest in Brazil, where more than 2.1 million have tested positive and more than 81,000 have died.
Next by death toll are the United Kingdom at more than 45,500, Mexico at over 40,400, Italy at more than 35,000, France at just over 30,000, and both Spain and India with more than 28,000, according to Johns Hopkins.
(The Sacramento Bee’s Rosalio Ahumada, Sophia Bollag, Francesca Chambers and David Lightman contributed to this story.)
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