CA sets monthly death mark with days left in August

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Even as cases and hospitalizations continue to fall, there is at least one more grim milestone to report in California’s battle with COVID-19: There have already been more deaths recorded in August than any other month of the pandemic.

With five days of data left to be logged, the August death toll climbed to 3,328 on Wednesday — breaking a record set the previous month — after another 147 fatalities were reported around the state, according to data compiled by this news organization. That was fewer than a week ago, however, so the seven-day average fell slightly to about 123 fatalities per day over the past week.

California has averaged at least 120 deaths per day for the entirety of August, reaching as high as 145 virus fatalities per day in the state’s deadliest seven-day period of the pandemic, which ended Aug. 6 (only six of those days, Aug. 1-6, are counted toward the August total).

But deaths are beginning to trend downward, following hospitalizations and cases, both of which have been falling for about a month. That peak in deaths came at the start of August, and after a small tick upward last week, the seven-day average is near its lowest level of the month; it had fallen to 120 last Friday but rose back to 130 during the week before its most recent decline. Prior to that, the last time California averaged fewer than 120 deaths per day was the last week of July.

And it was during that week that the state had set its previous mark for the most deaths from COVID-19 recorded in a month, which came in July, when there were a total of 3,139 deaths between July 1-31, more than a thousand more than any prior month of the pandemic.

If California continues at a rate of 123 deaths per day through the end of the month, it would finish August with approximately 800 more fatalities than July.

But hospitalizations have fallen dramatically since the beginning of the month, and there have been fewer new cases in August than there were in July.

Statewide, hospitalizations hit their peak July 21, when there were 7,170 patients being treated for COVID-19. When the month started, that number had been falling for a little over a week, and it has continued to do so throughout all of August. Since the start of the month, the state has shed nearly one-third of its COVID hospitalizations, down to 4,365 on Tuesday, the fewest since June 24.

California is also on pace to keep August’s case count lower than the total in July, when there were more cases reported than the entirety of the pandemic prior to it.

Counties around the state reported 5,854 new cases Wednesday — the second consecutive day with fewer than 6,000 — to bring their total for the month to 186,396, according to data compiled by this news organization. Even with five more days of about 5,750 cases — the current seven-day average — the total would still be shy of the nearly 263,000 cases reported in July.

The Bay Area has already reported 50 more deaths this month than in July — 277 through Aug. 26 — but that still amounted to about 8% of the statewide total, significantly smaller than its 20% share of the population. There were another 19 deaths in the region Wednesday — tied for the most in a single day — including nine in Alameda County, four in Santa Clara County, three in San Francisco, two in Sonoma County and one in Contra Costa County.

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