Even as cases begin to stabilize across the state, more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths have been reported in Orange County this week as the death toll continues to surge across the state due to the summer surge in coronavirus infections.
On average, people who succumb to the disease die 28 days after infection, said Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert at UC Berkeley. As the number of new infections continues to decline, deaths will also decrease in the coming weeks.
The total number of pandemic deaths in Orange County reached 1,018 reported deaths Thursday. Dr. Margaret Bredehoft, the county's assistant director of public health, called the number "a tragic milestone".
Despite the dismal number, Orange County's health officials said the county could move to the state's less restrictive red tier on Sept. 8 if coronavirus case rates continued to decline. This would allow more companies to resume operations indoors, despite health officials warning they would be closely monitoring these operations.
"As we reopen and contemplate reopening businesses, the biggest concerns and areas we want to support are things that are indoors, whether it's malls or indoor restaurants," said Bredehoft. "These are the areas that concern us the most."
Schools may be eligible to reopen campus on September 22nd. The decision on reopening lies with the individual school districts.
"Schools are not forced to open," said Bredehoft. "You can open with the caveat that they also offer options for remote virtual learning as well as a hybrid form."
She said schools should be ready to reopen safely and "not reopen unless they are ready". The county reports 5.6 new cases per 100,000 people every day and a positive test rate of 5%, Bredehoft said. There have been a total of 48,945 coronavirus cases in the county.
The San Francisco Bay Area also reported an unfortunate new manufacturer this week. The nine counties in the region had the highest death toll in a day at 30, according to the Times on Wednesday. Since the pandemic began, the region has suffered 1,167 deaths from COVID-19.
The state's latest numbers on Wednesday showed a total of 717,177 cases, up 5,125 from the previous day. The California dashboard also reported a total of 13,327 deaths, 164 more than Tuesday.
The state says 15,480 children under the age of 5 were infected. Nobody died. There were three deaths among 5 to 17 year olds, 194 among 18 to 34 year olds and 749 among 35 to 49 year olds.
Older residents are fatally affected in large numbers. 1,360 of those infected between the ages of 50 and 59 have died. Deaths also with age. The state reported 5,422 deaths among people aged 80 and over.
According to the Times' coronavirus tracker, Los Angeles County has recorded an average of 989 new cases and 26.7 new deaths per day for the past week, with the number of confirmed infections doubling every 150.5 days.
Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, Los Angeles District Chief Medical Officer, on Thursday urged residents not to assume that the reopening constitutes a license to violate health guidelines. He said people taking a new risk, such as going to work, should try to reduce the risk of contracting the disease elsewhere, such as through social interactions.
During an online press conference, Gunzenhauser said the county is working to fix about 800 active outbreaks, many on construction sites, and reported around 1,000 new COVID-19 cases most days. With many people untested, the actual number of new cases every day could be 5,000, he warned.
The county on Thursday allowed hair salons and hairdressers to open to inside services with restrictions, said a reopening, which Gunzenhauser said, would be carefully monitored.
"Viruses still abound here in LA County," he warned.
According to the Times coronavirus tracker, Riverside County has seen an average of 225 new cases and 5.1 new deaths per day over the past week. In San Bernardino County there was an average of 263 new cases and four deaths per day.
San Diego County has reported an average of 232 new cases and 3.1 new deaths per day.
San Diego State University canceled in-person classes Wednesday after dozens of students contracted the coronavirus.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)
Last week California announced a new color-coded system that will determine reopening in counties. Those in the purple category, including Los Angeles and Orange counties, face the most restrictions. Purple means widespread risk, red significant risk, orange moderate, and yellow minimal risk. Each level determines what can be reopened.
A county must stay in a level for three weeks before it can move on to a new level, and only if it has met its level's requirements for two consecutive weeks. The new system replaced the previous County Watch List.
Swartzberg said the color levels are an improvement. The old system has created a lot of confusion, he said, and "something needs to be done".
"When you see something that is easier, it's usually better," the infectious disease expert said in an interview. He said he appreciated that the new system gives the counties the honor of having conducted many tests.
"Those districts that do not do enough testing will be penalized, and those that do a lot of testing will get credit for it," he said. “That's smart. It puts the incentives in place. "
San Francisco, which is both a city and a county, is now in the red zone despite relatively high case numbers. These numbers were adjusted to reflect the fact that San Francisco ran more tests than most other counties in the country.