Wednesday was a day of macabre milestones in California.
Counties across the state reported more deaths than any previous day of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data collected by this news organization: 155, pushing the cumulative number of deaths north of 8,000 and the average of seven. more than 96 days per day.
That afternoon, the state beat New York in the highest case count in the country, reaching 418,964 with another 12,122 positive tests on Tuesday, the second highest in a single day.
And the same day, San Francisco’s top health official warned that the New York City experience this spring could easily be SF in the early fall.
Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco’s director of public health, said it was a “critical time for all of us” amid a surge that has increased hospitalizations and the average number of daily cases to new highs in the city. Still, the city is still better positioned than others in California and far removed from the crisis in New York City.
“I am very concerned that as cases increase, it is plausible that we may have a New York-like situation in late summer or early fall,” Colfax said at a virtual press conference on Wednesday, although he noted that San Francisco was testing at a higher rate than other major metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver, Boston, and New York, while they have the lowest rate of cases and deaths among them. “Therefore, we have a solid foundation to build on, and we are doing exactly that.”
About 3,000 miles and the entire continental United States separates San Francisco and New York City, and the two cities have taken equally divergent paths in their battles with the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the height of the New York outbreak, the hospital system in the country’s most populous metropolis was overrun with patients with COVID. Even after its largest monthly increase in hospitalizations, San Francisco still had more than a third of its available acute beds (650) and more than half of its intensive care units (405).
City hospitals were beginning to accept transfer patients from other counties at this time last month. However, in the time since then, hospitalizations have risen 153% to a new high of 99 on Tuesday, despite a decrease in transfer patients.
Official figures show that 1,724 hospitalized patients in New York City peaked on April 6, although antibody studies have suggested that tests captured a swath of all cases at the time. For San Francisco to reach that level per capita, it would be equivalent to about 183 patients in the hospital, approximately double the current levels.
At that time, more than 500 New Yorkers died each day. In other words: For weeks, there were 10 times the number of deaths each day in New York City (about 566) that San Francisco has experienced throughout the pandemic (53). Despite crushing its curve, New York’s number of daily deaths per capita (1.15 per 1 million per day) was still higher than San Francisco’s (0.49 per 1 million) more than three months after its peak.
Most deaths and hospitalizations from the virus in California continue to occur in central and southern California. Los Angeles contributed 59 of the 155 deaths statewide Wednesday, while the 28 deaths in Riverside County were the highest in a single day and the second-highest in the state. San Diego (18) and Kern (10) counties also reported double-digit casualties on Wednesday.
There were nine deaths from the virus reported Wednesday in the Bay Area, led by four in Alameda County. It was also one of the five counties in the region that reported at least 100 new cases on Tuesday: Santa Clara (275), Contra Costa (271), Alameda (260), Solano (125), and San Mateo (102). The 1,262 positive tests in the region were the second most part of the pandemic, while their seven-day average of new cases increased to a new high: 945 per day, 160% more than a month ago.
The average daily death toll in the Bay Area reached its highest level since late April (8 per day) but is still much lower than in Los Angeles (40 per day; about 2 million more people), the rest of Southern California (30 per day; about 3 million more people) and Central California (15 per day; 2 million less people).