After two-plus years of the Covid pandemic and drought, the largest fires in recorded history and a recall election in California, Governor Gavin Newsom left yesterday for two-weeks to Central and South America with his family. Bad timing.
Numbers released by the state to the media today indicate that Covid test positivity is once again rising in the region and its largest metropolis.
The state’s 7-day average test positivity, which experts say is a good measure of disease spread, was at 1.3% one week ago. Today, the state announced its test positivity — which is averaged over seven days to account for one and two-day variations in reporting — had jumped to 1.6%.
While the number is still small, a near 25% rise in less than in week in a number that is a 7-day average is significant, if only for the steepness of the trend line which, if it continues, could very quickly add up to a widespread outbreak. In fact, the single-day test positivity rate is now 2.4%, up from 1.2% seven days ago.
Cases in the state are also up. One week ago, the number of daily new cases recorded was 1,748, according to the CA data dashboard. Today, California announced 4,026 new cases in an email sent to journalists, the highest number of new cases in a month. Even the 7-day average is up to 2.022 (note: The state does not provide daily 7-day averages).
In Los Angeles, cases and the 7-day test positivity rate are also rising rapidly. While the LA County Department of Public Health has not yet released its numbers today, the state’s dashboard indicates that, from a 542 new cases one week ago, the county’s daily tally stands at 1,040 today, up from 784 yesterday. That’s consistent with the rough 1/4 ratio between daily cases in Los Angeles and California throughout the pandemic.
The 7-day average test positivity rate in the Golden State was 0.7% last Friday. Today it is 0.9%. That’s a 28% rise in a 7-day average over the course of one week.
The increases in cases and test positivity come amid the steady rise of BA.2 Omicron in the region, a variant that is thought to be 30% more transmissible than the original Omicron that ravaged the region this past winter.
BA.2 is likely now the dominant variant in the state and LA, as well, according to county and CDC data.
In the final week of February, BA.2 accounted for 6.3% of new cases sequenced in Los Angeles. As of March 12, the latest date for which data is available, 32% of positive Covid tests that underwent laboratory sequencing in LA turned out to be the result of BA.2. Given that rise, and the pattern seen in every country across the globe where BA.2 has gained a significant foothold, it’s very likely the more virulent strain is now dominant in the region.
In fact, this week’s CDC data map shows BA.2 accounts for well over half the new infections in the three state region comprised of California, Nevada and Arizona. See graphic below.
US map with new BA.2 cases, shown in pink, vs. BA.1 cases, in purple.
Unfortunately, though BA.2 has been spreading in the state for months, California still does not break the variant out in its weekly report on variant proportions. The more transmissible strain is lumped in with all other Omicron cases detected, so it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact percentage and how it’s changed in the past few weeks.
Also troublesome to those looking to track the spread, the California Department of Public Health announced the following today: “Effective April 4, 2022, CDPH will transition to publicly reporting COVID-19 data two days a week [as opposed to daily]. Specifically, data on COVID-19 cases, test positivity, hospitalizations, ICU numbers and availability, deaths and vaccine coverage will be reported on CDPH’s public dashboards only on Tuesdays and Fridays.”