California Has The Lowest Coronavirus Rate In The Nation. Here’s What We Know

California has the lowest coronavirus case rate of any state, federal figures show, illustrating the progress made in the ongoing battle against the highly infectious delta variant.

The state has been among the national leaders in that metric for the last week, as the number of newly confirmed coronavirus infections continues to tumble from a peak earlier this summer. But while infections have plummeted in highly-vaccinated Bay Area and Southern California, hospitals are struggling to keep up with a crush of cases in the Central Valley, underscoring how vaccines are so critical in combating serious illness.

California’s new case rate per 100,000 people is less than half of neighboring states, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some hard-hit states have more than quadruple California’s numbers.


As of Monday, California’s seven-day case rate was 95.3 per 100,000 people. The next-closest state was Connecticut at 126.5.

The comparable rates over the same period were 385.1 cases per 100,000 people in Texas, 287.2 in Florida, 250.1 in Arizona, 234.7 in Oregon, and 202.5 in Nevada, federal data show. West Virginia was the country’s highest at 715.8.

With the latest update, California’s coronavirus transmission level has once again fallen to “substantial,” according to the CDC. Every other state currently remains in the “high” transmission category.

The federal figures illustrate the recent success California has had in turning the tide of the delta variant-fueled coronavirus wave.

Over the last week, the state has reported an average of 8,849 new cases per day — down about 33% from two weeks ago, according to data compiled by The Los Angeles Times.

COVID-19 hospitalizations, too, have plummeted lately. At the height of the current surge, more than 8,300 coronavirus-positive patients were hospitalized at one time statewide. Now, that daily census has fallen to just about 6,000, state data show.

But the progress has been uneven. While the Bay Area, in general, experienced the least-severe summer surge and Los Angeles has had success with new measures to slow the delta variant, the Central Valley and parts of rural Northern California have been harder hit.

Bay Area 

According to the state dashboard, the 7-day daily average case rate in Santa Clara County is 10.6 per 100,000. In San Mateo County, it’s 9.9 cases, and in San Francisco it’s 11.1 cases. In Alameda County, it’s 12, and in Contra Costa County, it’s 16.7 cases. Statewide, it’s 19.9 cases per 100,000, meaning the region is faring better than California as a whole.

Hospitalizations in the region have also started to decline. Santa Clara County had 151 COVID-19 patients in the hospital as of Sept. 19, down from 250 at the start of the month. Alameda County had 147, down from above 200. Contra Costa County had 133, down from more than 220 in late August. San Francisco had 72, down from north of 120 in mid-August, and San Mateo had 34, down from around 60 in late August.

Still, hospitalizations remain far above where they were in May and June. In late May, John Muir Health had just five COVID-19 patients at its Concord hospital and zero at its Walnut Creek facility. On Monday, said spokesman Ben Drew, the system had a total of 43 COVID-19 patients at the two acute care medical centers. While that number is slightly higher than the 36 people hospitalized Friday, Drew said, “it has been a downward trajectory for the past couple of weeks.”

L.A. County

Los Angeles County continues to report improvement in weekly COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

About a month ago, the county was averaging more than 3,400 new coronavirus infections a day over a one-week period, according to a Times analysis of state data. But over the last week, L.A. County averaged nearly 2,200 new cases a day.

And as of Sunday, 1,034 coronavirus-positive patients were hospitalized countywide — down roughly 42% from the month prior.

Central Valley

But the situation remains grim elsewhere. Hospitals throughout the San Joaquin Valley — which the state defines as Calaveras, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne counties — have reported having less than 10% of their cumulative staffed adult ICU beds available for 19 straight days.

Some health care facilities in the region are still so overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients that some critically ill people are waiting days to be transferred into the intensive care unit from the emergency room, officials said.

One Fresno area hospital had nine critically ill patients who were unable to get into the intensive care unit for more than three days, interim health officer Dr. Rais Vohra said at a news conference last week. This forces emergency room staff to treat patients needing ICU care, disrupting the health care of other patients with less severe illness.

“We’re basically really straining what the emergency department has to do,” Vohra said. “We still anticipate at least a few more weeks of thoroughly impacted operations” in ICUs and emergency rooms.

Hospitals in Fresno County are teetering on the need to ration health care and implement “crisis standards of care,” Vohra said. In these situations, hospitals conclude that they no longer can provide the same standard of health care to everyone and must choose whose lives to prioritize in order to keep as many patients alive as possible.In Fresno County and the greater San Joaquin Valley, hospitals remain extremely busy, said Dan Lynch, director of the Central California Emergency Medical Services Agency. Most of Fresno County’s hospitals are running at 108% to 110% of standard capacity, while Clovis Community Medical Center near Fresno has been running at 130% of capacity.


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