California coronavirus death count tops 70,000 as cases fall

California’s coronavirus death toll reached another once-unfathomable milestone — 70,000 people — on Monday as the state emerges from the latest infection surge with the lowest rate of new cases among all states.

Last year at this time, cases in the state started ticking up and by January California was in the throes of the worst spike of the pandemic and was the nation’s epicenter for the virus. Daily deaths approached 700.

The latest surge started in summer and was driven by the delta variant that primarily targeted the unvaccinated. At its worst during this spike, California’s average daily death count was in the low 100s.

Data collected by Johns Hopkins University showed the state with 70,132 deaths by midday Monday. It’s the most in the nation, surpassing Texas by about 3,000 and Florida by 13,000, although California’s per capita fatality rate of 177 per 100,000 people ranks in the bottom third for the U.S.

“There’s very little if anything ever to compare that to,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health secretary, said of the level of deaths.

”Take a moment of silence and reflection on what that’s meant for Californians,” he said. “Families that have lost more than one family member, key breadwinners, people who couldn’t protect themselves.”

The most populous state is in a much better situation as it enters the colder months this year. It has been a national leader in vaccinations while others who survived the virus acquired a natural immunity that also helps prevent severe illness and death.

Even if there is a new surge, “the level of life-altering behaviors may be different this time around than we saw last winter,” Ghaly told The Associated Press.

He does not expect California to lock down as it did last year with business closures, social distancing requirements and capacity restrictions.

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“That is not what we’re talking about,” he said. “I think vaccines plus masks in certain (indoor) settings is going to be a significant support of us getting through anything that COVID throws at us in the future.”

A year ago, “there were all these debates, should we have Halloween vs. no Halloween,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco. “I think this winter is going to be a lot better than last winter, especially in California.”

More than 70% of Californians are now fully vaccinated and another 8% partially so, she noted. That compares to about one-third who had antibodies against the coronavirus in February, before the rollout of vaccines and as California was recovering from a surge that strained hospitals to the breaking point.

Marm Kilpatrick, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, Santa Cruz, projects that the current level of immunity is still too low to avert another surge, particularly because people are tired of safety precautions.

Still, “it will primarily be those people who have not been infected before and those who are not vaccinated that will suffer the highest consequences,” Kilpatrick said.

California was the first to impose …read more

Source:: Headlines News4jax

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