LOS ANGELES – The number of coronavirus cases in California surpassed 200,000 Thursday, as the state continues to report a surge in new infections that officials now say cannot be explained by increased testing alone.
The state shattered a daily record for new cases Monday, reporting more than 6,000 infections for the first time. That number surged even higher Tuesday, when 6,652 new cases were reported. The state reported 4,629 new cases Wednesday and 5,069 on Thursday, according to the Los Angeles Times’ coronavirus tracker – pushing its cumulative total past 200,000.
Officials have attributed some of the increase in daily case counts to more tests being performed and said that other metrics, like the average number of daily hospitalizations and the overall rate of people testing positive, give a better picture of how the state is faring in its fight against the virus.
Both of those metrics now suggest the virus’s spread has indeed accelerated.
California has seen a 32% increase in hospitalizations of patients with confirmed COVID-19 disease, and a 19% jump in ICU patients with verified infections, over the past 14 days.
The rate at which coronavirus tests are confirming infections is also on the rise. On Thursday, 5.6% of coronavirus test results were positive on average over the previous seven days; a week earlier, 4.6% were coming back positive for the virus, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis.
Los Angeles County continues to be a hotbed of new infections, accounting for more than 45% of the state’s total cases and more than 55% of its COVID-19 deaths. The county’s director of public health, Barbara Ferrer, on Thursday reported more than 2,000 new cases for the fourth time in a week.
“As you may be aware, the data is now showing concerning trends,” Ferrer said in a statement. “This week we have seen cases increase, hospitalizations increase, and the positivity rate for testing increase.”
After several weeks of relative stability, L.A. County’s most recent three-day average of daily hospitalizations reflected a 9% increase, according to the Department of Public Health dashboard that tracks reopening metrics.
There were 1,633 confirmed coronavirus patients in county hospitals Thursday, with 25% in intensive care and 18% on ventilators.
There was concern the increase could stress the healthcare system, should the trend persist.
Dr. Christina Ghaly, L.A. County’s director of health services, said Monday that, while the county has enough available hospital beds, the number of beds in intensive care units may become limited in coming weeks.
Since then, the four hospitals run by the Department of Health Services reported a 36% drop in total available ICU beds, from roughly 50 available beds on Monday to 32 available beds Friday.
L.A. County’s 70 designated 911 receiving hospitals together reported a 14% decrease in available ICU beds between Monday and Thursday, from 188 available beds to 161, according to data released by the Department of Health Services.
Still, the most recent three-day average of available ICU beds reported by the county, which is considered a more stable indicator, reflected a 5% increase in capacity, according to the Department of Public Health dashboard.
The county’s overall positivity rate is also creeping upward, reaching 9% Friday after holding at 8% since late May, officials said. A total of 1,020,322 people in L.A. County had been tested for the coronavirus and received their results.
“We also know that the average age of the people who are infected, including those who are newly infected, is trending younger than before,” Ferrer said Thursday.