While California continues to see alarming increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, there are some early signs that the unprecedented Omicron wave is slowing.
The shift is uneven across the state, but the numbers suggest California may reach a peak in the recent rise. States on the east coast that were previously hit by the Omicron wave have already begun to see a sustained decline in infections.
California has registered more than 7 million coronavirus cases this week. The inventory, which was registered in state databases late Monday, comes a week after it registered its 6th millionth case of coronavirus.
Here is what the numbers show:
Cases still high, but leveling
The exponential growth in California's case rate seems to be leveling off, though it is likely to take a few days - after any reporting backlog from Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekends - to be safe.
According to data released Tuesday, reflecting figures for Monday, California had an average of 104,000 cases a day for the past seven-day period, slightly above the previous week's rate of 101,000; the week before, the state reported 55,000 cases a day. California's case rate peaked at more than 115,000 cases a day in the middle of last week, fluctuating between 114,000 and 115,000 in a few days.
Some of the state's most populous regions may be beginning to see a smoothing of case rates. Southern California recorded 69,000 new cases a day over the past seven-day period, roughly flat compared to the 71,000 from a week earlier. The week before, the region counted 39,000 cases a day.
Los Angeles County posted a record number of coronavirus cases last week, nearly 42,000 a day. But based on figures released since then, the county now has an average of about 38,000 cases a day.
Officials said numbers released Tuesday may be lower than expected due to delays in reporting over the holiday weekend. A clearer picture may appear later in the week.
The Bay Area now has an average of about 19,000 coronavirus cases a day, a rate that has fluctuated between 18,000 and 22,000 in pretty much the past week. The Greater Sacramento area recorded about 5,500 cases a day in the most recent weekly period. The capital region has fluctuated between 5,000 and 6,000 cases recently.
In Santa Clara County, the level of coronavirus in sewage began to decline about 1 1/2 weeks ago. Officials expect the dive will herald a sustained drop in the case of coronavirus.
In the Greater San Joaquin Valley, a region that has generally lagged behind trends in Southern California and the Bay Area, things are still rising. The area counted 9,300 cases a day over the past week, higher than the 6,500 cases a day in the previous week; the week before the registered region 2,900 cases per day.
Rural Northern California
In rural Northern California, about 750 cases a day were reported last week, up from about 680 the week before, and more than double the approximately 300 cases a day the sparsely populated region reported two weeks ago.
The number of positive COVID-19 tests is declining
The rate at which California's coronavirus testing is returning positive has also begun to decline. During the seven-day period ending Jan. 10, California hit a record positive test rate of 23.1%. Since then, the price fell to 21.5% for the seven-day period ending Saturday. The rate is still very high; by comparison, at the beginning of December it was around 2%.
A similar trend applies to Los Angeles County. LA County's seven-day positive earnings rate may have peaked at 22.7% for the seven-day period ending Jan. 3; for the weekly period ending Tuesday, the positivity rate was 16.3%. In the first week of December it was around 1%.
There is also evidence that coronavirus-positive hospitalizations, although not yet declining, are growing at a slower rate than seen earlier in the increase.
As of Tuesday, 15,179 such patients were hospitalized across the country, state data shows.
From December 28 to January 4, that count grew by 69%. The next week it rose 53%.
However, growth from January 11 to Tuesday was far more modest: around 23%.
Nevertheless, the latest count is the highest since January 29, 2021 - and represents a significant burden on the state's health system.
The University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model projects that daily number of Californians infected peaks last week. The model suggests that in mid-February, new infections may be 15% of this week's levels, roughly the same as in mid-December.
Even when the infection trend reverses, it will still take weeks before the full rage of the Omicron wave disappears. Throughout the pandemic, officials have noted that an increase in cases will inevitably trigger similar increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths a few weeks later. For example, the institute estimates that the number of hospitalized coronavirus-positive patients will peak at the end of January.