A summer virus surge driven by the delta variant is again straining some California hospitals, particularly in rural areas, but the trend shows signs of moderating and experts predict improvement in coming weeks.
The pattern is similar to the infection spikes California experienced last summer and much more severely over the winter when intensive care units were overflowing. But this time the moderation is coming without the shutdown orders that previously hobbled California’s economy, businesses, and schools.
“We’re hopeful, definitely,” Dr. Erica Pan, the state epidemiologist, said Tuesday.
The state’s latest projection “does look encouraging that we are plateauing and or peaking,” Pan said in an interview with The Associated Press. But she added that the “one thing we’ve learned” about COVID-19 is its unpredictability.
Serious cases are still climbing, with more than 8,200 patients in hospitals and nearly 2,000 in intensive care across California. One of the highest daily spikes in new hospital admissions was just last week, Pan noted.
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Deaths have begun increasing and state models project nearly 2,000 people will die within the next three weeks, adding to California’s virus death toll that is approaching 65,000, the most in the nation.
The state’s epidemiological models show the rate of hospitalizations leveling off, with a peak of about 9,300 hospitalizations around Labor Day before numbers start declining. ICU admissions are projected to follow the same pattern, peaking just below 2,200. During the worst of the pandemic in January, hospitalizations topped out at nearly 22,200 and ICU admissions at almost 5,000.
Importantly, the statewide infection rate has dropped 25% in the past three weeks, from a high of 7% of those tested to 5.2%