California numbers improving, but death toll climbs toward 15,000

Nearly every day for close to a month, multiple statewide metrics for COVID-19 activity have shown consistent improvement, a promising sign in California’s battle with the coronavirus. The volume of hospitalized COVID-19 patients (now fewer than 2,900), the number of them in intensive care units (just over 900) and the […]

Nearly every day for close to a month, multiple statewide metrics for COVID-19 activity have shown consistent improvement, a promising sign in California’s battle with the coronavirus.

The volume of hospitalized COVID-19 patients (now fewer than 2,900), the number of them in intensive care units (just over 900) and the percentage of diagnostic tests returning positive (3.6% in the past two weeks) are all less than half of what they were in late July, data from the California Department of Public Health show. Each have declined at a steady clip since early-to-mid August.

But the death total, approaching 15,000, is still adding up across the state and in the Sacramento area, where the six-county region’s fatality toll is creeping toward 500.

The state’s rate has fallen from its peak of averaging more than 140 COVID-19 deaths per day in mid-August, but is still averaging just over 100 daily deaths in the past two weeks, a rolling rate that has plateaued now for about a week. Prior to the summer surge, California was averaging around 60 deaths a day. A few weeks after infection and hospitalization totals skyrocketed around late June, the death rate soared into a daily triple-digit average over the course of July.

August was by far the deadliest month of the pandemic for California as a whole and for much of the capital region, including Sacramento and Placer counties. Sacramento has had more than half of its death tally (which totaled 358 as of Tuesday) from the six-month pandemic come from August and the first few days of September, county officials say.

Death numbers don’t factor in, though, to California’s new color-coded, four-tier system for economic reopening, which launched at the very end of August and looks only at the rate of new cases and the percentage of tests coming back positive.

CDPH maintains a list that classifies counties at four levels of risk based on their COVID-19 activity, and allows laxer business and gathering restrictions in counties where virus activity is relatively low. The colored tiers are, from most to least restrictive: purple, red, orange and yellow.

The state updates the tier list weekly on Tuesdays, and this week moved three counties (Marin, Inyo and Tehama) from purple to red.

None moved to a worse tier. A few foothills counties, including El Dorado and Nevada, are in line to move from red to orange tier next week if their metrics hold up. Others, including Sacramento and Yolo counties in the capital region, are at the very least three weeks away from changing tiers, because they’re still recording too many new COVID-19 cases per day.

Gyms file lawsuit against Newsom

The California Fitness Alliance, a group of health-club chains from across the state, announced Tuesday it is suing Gov. Gavin Newsom to win the right to reopen indoor gyms, saying that the decision to keep them closed ignores their ability to modify operations and keep patrons safe.

Gyms have been yo-yoed by California’s stay-at-home order. In the original March shutdown, gyms had to stay closed. By mid-June, most could open with modifications including mask use. But in mid-July, faced with surging COVID-19 activity statewide, Newsom and the state ordered indoor gyms to shut down once again.

“We believe in science, we believe in data,” said Francesca Schuler, a Fitness Alliance board member and owner of the Stockton-based In-Shape Health Clubs chain. “We are in the health business, first and foremost.”

A lawyer for the alliance, Scott Street, said the gym shutdowns are “irrational, not based on evidence.”

Sacramento-area numbers: 471 dead among over 30,000 cases

Sacramento, Yolo, Placer, El Dorado, Sutter and Yuba counties have combined for more than 470 COVID-19 deaths and more than 30,000 infections.

El Dorado County, which throughout the pandemic has fared best in the region, doubled its very small coronavirus resident death toll this week, reporting one Monday and another Tuesday for four total since the start of the health crisis.

Sacramento County health officials have recorded 20,545 cases and 358 deaths over the course of the pandemic, last updated Tuesday morning. The county health office estimates 17,346 are “likely recovered,” suggesting roughly 2,800 Sacramento County residents have active coronavirus cases. This figure was below 300 in early June, but ballooned quickly amid the region’s surge in activity; the county ranged from between 3,000 and 3,600 active cases for most of the summer.

Sacramento County remains in the purple tier.

Yolo County health officials have reported a total of 53 COVID-19 deaths and 2,710 infections total, with 13 cases added Monday and 21 on Tuesday. The county’s most recent death was reported more than a week ago. There were four infected patients in hospitals in the county Tuesday, down from seven last Friday, with three currently in intensive care, according to state data. The county has four ICU beds available.

Yolo has seen outbreaks at several long-term care facilities, which account for 148 of the total cases and 26 of the deaths. The county, like Sacramento County, is coded purple.

Placer County has reported a total of 3,353 cases and 39 deaths as of Tuesday. The county reported its most recent death Saturday. There are 26 people hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the county, and the ICU count has decreased to eight, the county says. The hospitalized total had plateaued at around 65 in early-to-mid August before declining sharply; the ICU total peaked at 16 on Aug. 25.

Placer County was promoted from the purple tier to the red tier last week.

El Dorado County has reported 1,051 COVID-19 cases and four deaths due to the virus after adding five new cases Tuesday and reporting one new fatality Monday and another Tuesday. One infected patient is in intensive care at a hospital in the county,. The county had 12 ICU beds available as of Wednesday, according to state data. El Dorado County has been coded red by state health officials.

Sutter County has reported a total of 1,608 COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths as of Tuesday afternoon There are 14 infected people hospitalized in the county including five in intensive care, up from 13 and three earlier this week. In neighboring Yuba County, a total of 1,092 people have been infected with COVID-19 and seven have died. Seven infected people in Yuba County were hospitalized as of Tuesday, with two of them in intensive care.

Both Sutter and Yuba counties, which share a bi-county health office, are coded purple.

The guidelines for California’s four color-shaded tiers are as follows: The purple tier is seven or more new daily cases per 100,000 residents, red is between four and seven new daily cases, orange is between one and 3.9 new cases, and yellow is below one new daily case per 100,000. For test positivity, the purple tier is above 8%, red is between 5% and 8%, the moderate tier is from 2% to 4.9% and the yellow tier is any rate below 2%. If a county has one metric in one color and the other in a different one, that county will be assigned to the more restrictive tier.

Here is a breakdown of where the six Sacramento-area counties stood as of this week’s update to the list.

Sacramento (purple): 9.0 daily new cases (per 100,000); 5.7% test positivity

Yolo (purple): 7.5 daily new cases; 5.8%

Sutter (purple): 10.7 daily new cases; 7.0%

Yuba (purple): 10.4 daily new cases; 10.6%

Placer (red): 6.1 daily new cases; 4.4%

El Dorado (red): 2.1 daily new cases; 1.8%

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U.S. death toll nearing 200,000; world infection total close to 30 million

Globally, over 29.6 million people have been infected with the coronavirus and more than 936,000 people have died as of Wednesday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The United States accounts for the largest share of infections and deaths of any country, with more than 6.6 million confirmed cases and over 196,000 deaths.

Brazil is the next leading nation in terms of deaths, at over 133,000. Brazil was recently surpassed in infections by India, which now has over 5 million cases, more than 600,000 more than Brazil. Over 82,000 have died of COVID-19 in India. Next in terms of death toll are Mexico at about 71,000, the United Kingdom at almost 42,000 dead, Italy at over 35,000, France and Peru each at about 31,000 and Spain at just over 30,000 dead.

Although Russia is the only nation other than the U.S., India and Brazil that has confirmed more than 1 million infections, it has only reported 18,800 deaths, putting the nation at No. 12 overall.

What is COVID-19? How is the coronavirus spread?

Coronavirus is spread through contact between people within 6 feet of each other, especially through coughing and sneezing that expels respiratory droplets that land in the mouths or noses of people nearby.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s possible to catch the disease COVID-19 by touching something that has the virus on it, and then touching your own face, “but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

Symptoms of the virus that causes COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath, which may occur two days to two weeks after exposure.

Most people develop only mild symptoms, but some people develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal. The disease is especially dangerous to the elderly and others with weaker immune systems.

The Bee’s Dale Kasler contributed to this story. Listen to our daily briefing:

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