California first US state to surpass 600,000 coronavirus cases
California has become the first state in the nation to surpass the mark of 600,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.
As of Friday morning, there were more than 603,000 recorded cases. The state also has now reported more than 11,000 deaths.
Yet despite the grim numbers, there is growing evidence that the surge in infections and fatalities that began when California reopened its economy in May is beginning to slow.
In Los Angeles County, the effective transmission rate of the coronavirus is now about 0.86 - meaning that every one infected person passes the virus to an average of 0.86 other people. Last week, the rate was at 0.91.
And statewide, an ensemble computer model known as the California COVID Assessment Tool estimates California's overall transmission rate is about 0.96.
Hospitalizations are also falling in many regions of California. Statewide, the average number of people who were hospitalized seemed to peak in late July, when an average of nearly 7,000 people were in hospitals with confirmed coronavirus infections during a seven-day period; by Wednesday, that number had fallen to 5,710.
"While our gains might feel slow and our future remains fragile, our success over the last three weeks is real," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday. "We begin to see signs of light."
As America's most populous state, California was viewed early on as a model in the battle against Covid-19. But the summer spike has instead made the state a cautionary tale.
A week ago, the state recorded 10,000 deaths. By Friday, that number had increased 10 per cent. The weekly death toll is nearly double what it was in April, when the first wave of coronavirus cases and fatalities were peaking.
Still, at 11,000 deaths, California remains well below New York - one of the earliest hot spots for the virus - which has recorded more than 30,000 fatalities.
Los Angeles County has tallied the bulk of the coronavirus cases and deaths in California, accounting more than one-third of the overall cases and nearly half of all deaths. On Thursday, public health officials reported 64 new deaths and 1,999 additional cases.
Public health director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday that the rate of disease is still too high for colleges and universities to allow in-person instruction, with limited exceptions such as lab work or arrangements for students who will become part of the essential workforce.
"The very nature of the way that colleges and universities operate creates a significant risk of outbreaks of Covid-19," Ferrer said.