The number of California’s confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed 900,000 on Saturday, with total related deaths topping more than 17,300, public health officials reported.
Across the state’s 58 counties, Los Angeles County remains by far the hardest hit, with nearly 300,000 cases and 6,989 deaths. On Saturday, the L.A. County Department of Public Health confirmed 2,173 new cases and 17 new deaths.
“As we move closer to the tragic milestone of 7,000 deaths in L.A. County and are seeing an increase in cases, please remember the choices we each make every day have a significant impact on whether we slow the spread of the virus,” public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a press release. “The virus doesn’t take a break for parties or celebrations.”
Of the 17 new deaths reported in L.A. County, the department said 16 were over the age of 50 and most had underlying health conditions. The one under-50 fatality also had underlying health problems, the department said. The department said 29% of the 770 people now hospitalized with COVID-19 are being treated in intensive care units.
Statewide, the total number of confirmed cases reached 901,152 on Saturday, with a total of 17,323 related deaths, according to state health officials. But the number of new cases statewide has plateaued and remains near levels seen in the spring, officials said.
The novel virus is considered widespread in 12 counties that together comprise 42% of California’s population. Other hard-hit counties include: Riverside, with 65,757 cases and 1,279 deaths; San Bernardino with 62,353 cases and more than 1,000 deaths; Orange with 58,326 cases and 1,444 deaths; San Diego with nearly 54,000 cases and 867 deaths; Kern with nearly 34,000 cases and 416 deaths; Fresno with 30,590 case and 436 deaths; Sacramento with 25,264 cases and 484 deaths.
In the spring and summer, the state saw a surge in cases following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to rapidly lift shutdown restrictions, prompting another shutdown. In late August, the governor introduced what he called “more stubborn” reopening rules, with a data-based four-tier system — Tier 1 indicated widespread transmission, while Tier 4 meant minimal transmission. The plan hinged on counties demonstrating success in slowing the virus before business and group activities were allowed to resume.
Health experts have credited the tiered system with allowing California to open some segments of its economy without experiencing a spike in deaths comparable to that seen earlier this year. California has managed to avoid what health officials call a nationwide “third wave” of infections, but they worry about the temptations of social gatherings amid the approach of Halloween and Thanksgiving.
The nationwide death toll of COVID-19 is now more than 223,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has claimed the most lives in New York state, which has seen more than 33,000 fatal infections.