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Even as Oregon and Washington face new outbreaks of COVID-19, there is growing optimism that California remains in recovery mode as coronavirus cases continue to drop dramatically with associated deaths.

California continued to do better than any other state, with the nation’s lowest per capita coronavirus case rate over the past week. Texas has the double rate of California; New York, quadruple; and Florida has nearly six times the case rate of California. Michigan still has the highest rate in the country, 299 cases per 100,000 people – 10 times the rate of 29 cases per 100,000 people in California.

“In California, we’ve done a lot better,” said UC San Francisco epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford. “We’re really # 1 here again: so we have a 37% drop in cases overall, and a 5% drop in hospitalizations, and a nearly 50% drop, over the past two weeks, in terms of mortality.

The coronavirus positivity rate “has dropped like a rock,” he said last week, hovering around 1%.

As a sign of this progress, Los Angeles County public health officials reported no new deaths from COVID-19 on Sunday. Although officials warned the figure was likely an undercoverage due to reporting delays over the weekend, it still marked a bright spot, capping several months of progress in the fight against the coronavirus.

There are now less than 2,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases per day on average over the past week in California, a huge drop from around 45,000 cases per day at the height of the outbreak in December and January. About 60 Californians have died each day from COVID-19 over the past week – the kind of numbers that have not been seen in six months – up from a high of 562 deaths per day in January.

Cumulatively, there have been more than 61,500 deaths from COVID-19 in California.

Although 2,000 new cases a day still show the coronavirus “is not gone,” Rutherford said California has staged “a remarkable achievement given the depth of the outbreak here and the complexity of the state. . “

There are still parts of California that do worse than others; Of the state’s 58 counties, none are in the most restrictive purple level of the state’s color-coded reopening plan, but 13 are in the second most restrictive level, or red. They are largely in the central valley, the foothills of the Sierra and the sparsely populated counties at the northern end of the state. Near Lake Tahoe, authorities ordered the quarantine of a “significant number” of students at Truckee High School after authorities confirmed 29 positive cases.

If trends improve, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Marin and Trinity counties could enter California’s most forgiving yellow tier as early as this week, allowing gyms, cinemas, amusement parks, sporting venues and museums to d ” increase the authorized capacity.

And Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he wants California to “fully reopen its economy” on June 15 and withdraw the tiered system as long as hospitalization rates remain stable and low and vaccine supply is sufficient, while retaining a certain risk of “common sense”. reduction measures.

There remains some concern about declining interest in vaccinations; LA County reported a 50% drop in appointments booked for the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine last week. Yet overall, California has one of the lowest vaccine hesitancy rates in the country.

Some of the counties that have done well with vaccinations include San Francisco and San Diego counties, where more than 60% of residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine. In LA County, 47% of residents received at least one injection; in Orange and Ventura counties, 49% did so; only 38% received an injection in Riverside County; and 35% have it in San Bernardino County.

Disproportionate vaccination rates continue to be a concern for some racial and ethnic groups. In LA County, for example, while about 50% of eligible White, Asian and Native American residents received at least one dose of the vaccine, only about 30% of eligible Latino and black residents received a vaccine.

And in northern California’s most populous county, Santa Clara, only 1 in 10 Latinos aged 16 or 17 have received at least one dose of the vaccine; that’s much smaller than 1 in 3 people in all of Santa Clara County, aged 16 or 17, who received an injection.

Santa Clara County officials are promoting evening and weekend immunization clinic hours and expanding options to immunize people at home to get more people immunized.

While the variants continue to be potentially problematic, they haven’t been problematic in California lately.

While the highly contagious British variant (B.1.1.7) is believed to pose significant problems in the last push in Michigan, the California variant (B.1.427 / B.1.429) may be keeping a lid on the British variant in California. The California variant, while more contagious than the conventional strain, is less contagious than the British variant – and if you had to choose between the two, the California variant is best to deal with.

“There is a real guess that [the California variant] … Maybe outside of the competition with the British variant, ”said Rutherford.

Based on the data available for Rutherford, Washington and Oregon – which have seen an increase in cases – don’t appear to have had much of the California variant in their states. But there hasn’t been a disturbing outbreak in California and Arizona, which have seen more cases of the California variant than the UK variant. California has identified about 15,000 cases of the California variant but about 3,500 of the UK variant.

The growing crisis in India remains of concern around the world, which is experiencing the worst COVID-19 outbreak a country has faced since the coronavirus was first detected in China over a year ago. A local variant, the so-called “double mutant” variant officially known as B.1.617, is circulating there and experts are studying its effect on the surge. A number of scientists have also said that a key role in India’s skyrocketing has been for many people to ditch their masks, attend election rallies, and return to sports games and religious festivals; the return to normal followed a premature statement by the ruling political party that it had “beaten” COVID-19.

Vaccinated medical personnel in India have been reported to contract the B.1.617 variant. This has raised the question of whether vaccines are generally less effective against the B.1.617 variant, or whether these examples are rare cases where the virus “breaks” the vaccine-induced immunity of medical personnel.

But based on the information Rutherford reviewed, it appears that the local Indian B.1.617 variant “appears to be controllable by current vaccines … the AstraZeneca vaccine appears to be working rather well,” Rutherford said. “But only 5½% of all Indian adults have been fully immunized.”

The sustained declines come as LA County appears poised to step up to yellow, the most forgiving of the state’s COVID-19 reopening system, which will allow most businesses to operate indoors, with modifications. To qualify for larger reopenings, the county must have an adjusted daily rate of new cases of less than 2 per 100,000 population.

Times writer David Pierson in Singapore and Special Envoy Parth MN in Mumbai contributed to this report.

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