California recorded its highest single-day COVID-19 death toll Wednesday, with 149 fatalities reported, according to a Los Angeles Times county-by-county tally.
For weeks, daily coronavirus deaths had remained steady even as the number of newly confirmed cases and hospitalizations have risen. It’s a trend experts believe occurred as California’s reopening accelerated in late May and people returned to pre-pandemic routines around Memorial Day, with some people not wearing masks in public and people returning to social gatherings.
But experts have feared that the daily death toll would start to climb eventually, catching up with the spikes in cases and hospitalizations. It can take three to four weeks after exposure to the virus for infected people to become sick enough to be hospitalized, and four to five weeks after exposure for people to die from the disease. Monday marked the sixth Monday after Memorial Day.
Los Angeles County on Wednesday recorded its worst daily coronavirus death toll in a month. Officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported 60 new coronavirus-related deaths Wednesday, and Long Beach — which has its own health office — reported one new death.
The combined total of 61 fatalities is the highest single-day death toll since June 2, when 62 deaths were reported across L.A. County, according to The Times’ California coronavirus tracker.
“Our cases are rising. The rate of infection is increasing. And the number of hospitalizations are up. And today, we’re even seeing a small increase in the number of deaths,” Barbara Ferrer, the Los Angeles County director of public health, said Wednesday.
“Tragically, we do expect that more of our loved ones and our neighbors may die of COVID-19 in the coming weeks with all of the increases we’re seeing in hospitalizations.
“We are seeing a sharp increase in community transmission,” Ferrer added, pointing out that L.A. County is recording on average 2,400 new coronavirus cases a day; at this time in June, the county was tallying about 1,300 cases daily.
On Tuesday, there were 2,037 people hospitalized with confirmed coronavirus infections in L.A. County, a 38% increase from the Tuesday after Memorial Day, when 1,477 coronavirus-infected people were hospitalized. It was the third consecutive day the county has posted a record number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations since the pandemic hit California.
Statewide, the number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations continued to march upward. Tuesday marked California’s 18th consecutive day of breaking the record for the number of hospitalized people with confirmed coronavirus infections.
On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said there were 6,100 people hospitalized with confirmed coronavirus infections, a 114% increase from the number six weeks earlier, on May 26, when 2,847 people were hospitalized. The number of people in California’s intensive care units has also soared.
On Tuesday, there were 1,753 people with confirmed coronavirus infections in California’s intensive care units, a 71% increase compared with the number six weeks earlier, on May 26, when 1,026 coronavirus-infected patients were in the ICU. In both Los Angeles County and across the state, higher percentages of coronavirus test results are coming back positive — an indication that virus transmission is worsening.
The so-called positivity rate in L.A. County has more than doubled since late May. The seven-day average of the daily rate climbed to 10.4%, officials said Wednesday; in late May, that rate fell to a low of 4.6%.
Across California, the rate at which coronavirus tests have come back positive has jumped 67% in the last three weeks.
A Los Angeles Times analysis of test results Wednesday showed the statewide positivity rate over the last seven days was 7.7%; three weeks earlier, the rate was just 4.6%.
Lin reported from San Francisco, Murphy from Culver City and Greene from Thousand Oaks.