There were 2,869 patients hospitalized with the virus around the state Saturday, according to the latest update from the California Department of Public Health, hitting its lowest level since April 10; the number of patients in intensive care units also fell to 932, the lowest it has been since April 2.
At the time, the state was mere weeks into the nation’s first shelter-in-place order, while President Donald Trump and governors, like California’s Gavin Newsom, were volleying responsibility for reopening from the initial shutdowns. There was hope the virus would peak by the end of spring.
Six months later, most of California remains closed and virus deaths have soared. The total fatalities nationwide number nearly 200,000, with more than 14,000 in California alone. The case count in the Golden State was over 760,000 Sunday — 38 times more than it was when hospitalizations were last this low.
But after a long summer surge — one missed by initial projections — the virus appears to be receding in California, by almost every metric.
With another 2,271 cases Sunday, the state has reported one-third the number of cases in the past week than at its peak and 36% fewer than two weeks ago. The test-positivity rate also continued to sink lower to 3.5% as of Sunday — less than half its peak rate and a two-point decline in two weeks.
After a month and a half of steady decline, hospitalizations hit a couple major milestones over the weekend.
Two weeks after falling below 4,000, the total number of patients fell below 3,000 on Friday for the first time since May 31. The next day, the state shed a net of another 121 patients, a decrease of 4% in one day, to its current level of 2,869. There are only 12 days on record — dating back to March 29 — with fewer patients hospitalized from COVID-19 across California, all prior to mid-April.
Overall, the state has cut its hospitalizations by 60% from their peak in late July.
While most places have dealt with spikes and lulls, the virus took hold in Los Angeles County in April and did not begin to relent until only recently. Los Angeles accounted for 1,299, or about 45%, of the 2,846 hospitalizations in California on April 10. But it has decreased its share of the statewide total to about 27%, or 775 total patients, as of Saturday. Since its peak in mid-July, Los Angeles has shed more than 65% of its hospital patients.
Los Angeles has been outpaced in the past two weeks by other counties in Southern California. Orange County has cut its hospitalizations by 40% in the past two weeks, San Bernardino by 35% and Riverside by 27%. All four counties had practically returned to pre-summer levels but still account for the majority of hospitalizations in the state.
The San Joaquin Valley, where the epicenter shifted in late summer, has seen similarly dramatic reductions in hospital patients. Overall, the eight-county region, which stretches from Stockton to Bakersfield, has cut its hospitalizations by 33% in the past two weeks, including declines of 43% in Fresno County on its north edge and 40% in Kern County to the south.
There are also fewer patients hospitalized in the San Joaquin Valley than in the Bay Area for the first time since May, despite its 4.3 million population being about half that of the Bay Area.
The Bay Area has cut its hospitalizations by about 20% in the past two weeks, but the 502 in hospital beds Saturday were only the fewest since July 2. It will have to cut that number in half to reach where it was throughout most of May and June.
On a per-capita basis, however, the Bay Area has remained in better shape than other parts of California throughout the pandemic.
That held true for mortality, too, even as the region reported some of its deadliest single days of the pandemic. Following a record 30 fatalities on Friday, there were another 17 in the Bay Area on Sunday, including a dozen in Alameda County. It was the second time in three days that Alameda County reported double-digit deaths, following two more days of the same last week.
Yet, there were eight counties in California with more fatalities from COVID-19 than Alameda, which has the largest overall death toll of anywhere in the Bay Area at 332. No other county in the region has 300 deaths, and just two others — Santa Clara and Contra Costa — crack the top 15.
In total, there were 53 new fatalities reported Sunday, led by 18 in San Bernardino, 12 in Alameda and 11 in Los Angeles. Kern County also reported six deaths, while there were three in Santa Clara County and one each in Contra Costa and San Francisco.
The 17 deaths in the Bay Area pushed its total over 1,300, but that accounts for a fraction of the statewide death toll.
Despite accounting for about 20% of California’s population, the Bay Area makes up about 9% of its COVID-19 deaths, which totaled 14,385 as of Sunday, according to data compiled by this news organization.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles County accounts for more than 40% of the state’s fatalities — 6,208 as of Sunday — despite making up about 25% of its population.
Active hospitalizations, by county (as of Sept. 13)
Los Angeles – 775 active hospitalizations, 7.8 per 100,000, -26% past 2 weeks
San Diego – 218, 6.4/100K, -5%
Orange – 196, 6.1/100K, -40%
San Bernardino – 190, 8.6/100K, -27%
Sacramento – 128, 8.5/100K, -36%
Alameda – 121, 7.1K/100K, -36%
Stanislaus – 114, 20.7/100K, -21%
Fresno – 111, 11.1/100K, -43%
Santa Clara – 107, 5.6/100K, -26%
San Francisco – 72, 8.1/100K, -2.7%