Women hug during an outdoor Yom Kippur service in Los Angeles
Rebeka Small (right) hugs Jennifer Galperson before an outdoor Yom Kippur service held by the Sinai Temple in Westwood on Thursday.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
COVID 2021

California has the lowest coronavirus rate in the nation. Here’s what we know

The state has been among the national leaders in lowest case rates for the past week, as the number of new coronavirus infections continues to drop. 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.

California officially has the lowest coronavirus case rate of any state, federal figures show, underscoring 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 past week, as the number of newly confirmed coronavirus infections continues to tumble from a peak earlier this summer.

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 triple California’s numbers.

As of Sunday, California’s seven-day case rate was 109.6 per 100,000 people. The next closest state was Maryland, at 143.4.

The comparable rates over the same period were 386.2 cases per 100,000 people in Texas; 355.9 in Florida; 308.6 in Oregon; 266.3 in Nevada; and 262.7 in Arizona, federal data show.

Last week, the state’s coronavirus transmission level temporarily fell from “high” to “substantial,” the second-highest tier as defined by the CDC. California was the only state to progress into that category at the time, though it — like the rest of the nation, except for Puerto Rico — is now considered to have high community transmission.

The CDC’s scale evaluating coronavirus transmission levels categorizes states as being in one of four tiers: the worst — high — is color-coded as red, followed by substantial (orange), moderate (yellow) and low (blue).

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

Over the past week, the state has reported an average of just under 9,000 new cases per day — down about 36% from two weeks ago, according to data compiled by The 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 above 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.

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 18 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 healthcare to everyone and must choose whose lives to prioritize 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.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.