California has become the first state to record more than 3 million known coronavirus infections, as the state deals with an unprecedented surge of cases that has left hospitals overwhelmed.
The total figure of COVID-19 cases in California is expected as it is the nation’s most populous state however; the speed at which it arrived has been shocking.
The first coronavirus case in California was confirmed on 25 January 2020. It took 292 days to get to 1 million infections, on 11 November, and then just 44 days to hit 2 million, a milestone reached on 24 December. The state hit 3 million just weeks later.
The count is also beyond other large states, such as Texas, with more than 2 million, and Florida, which has topped 1.5 million.
Till date, more than 33,600 Californians have died due to Covid-19.
Southern and central California has been the hardest affected. In Los Angeles county, the nation’s most populous and the current center of the state’s pandemic, scientists estimate that one in three residents have been infected with Covid-19 at some point since the beginning of the pandemic.
For safety reasons, the Air quality regulators have recently lifted the limit on the number of cremations that can be performed in Los Angeles country, citing a death rate that is more than double the pre-pandemic norm and an unmanageable backlog of dead bodies.
On average, California has seen about 500 deaths and 40,000 new cases daily for the past two weeks. Although hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions remained on a slight downward trend, officials have warned that could reverse when the full impact from transmissions during Christmas and New Year’s Eve gatherings is felt.
“As case numbers continue to rise in California, the total number of individuals who will have serious outcomes will also increase,” the state health department said in a statement on Monday.
Adding to issues, California is also experiencing new, possibly more variant of Covid-19.
The state health department announced Sunday that a new variant of the virus, dubbed L452R, was increasingly showing up in genetic sequencing of Covid-19 test samples from several counties.
Health officials said it was linked to a Christmastime outbreak at Kaiser Permanente San Jose that infected at least 89 staff members and patients, killing a receptionist. The outbreak has been blamed on an employee who visited the hospital emergency room wearing an air-powered inflatable Christmas tree costume.
The variant is different from another mutation, B117, which was first reported in the United Kingdom and appears to spread much more easily, although it doesn’t appear to make people sicker. The UK variant has also been detected in California.
Meanwhile, California officials are under pressure to expedite the state’s vaccine distribution program, which got off to a worryingly slow start. So far the state has vaccinated fewer than 2,500 people per 100,000 residents, a rate that falls well below the national average, according to federal data.
The state has converted Disneyland, fairgrounds and sports stadiums into mass vaccination sites in an effort to speed things up, as well as opening the first round of vaccines to anyone over the age of 65.
Many of the state’s residents remain under strict lockdown rules, which have closed schools, shut numerous businesses, and limited travel and gatherings. The latest restrictions are tied to hospital ICU capacity, which has rapidly dwindled.