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Updated June 22, 2020
Climbing over the past week, California’s numbers for statewide coronavirus-related hospitalizations this weekend exceeded the record levels set in late April, CalMatters’ hospital data tracker shows.
The tracker, which pulls from state data, shows that on Sunday, 3,702 patients who’ve tested positive for the novel coronavirus were hospitalized statewide. That broke the previous record set on Saturday, which saw 3,547 hospitalized COVID patients.
The weekend numbers represent a marked increase the all-time high: 3,497 hospitalized patients on April 29.
The recent jump follows a two-week period of mostly stable numbers of hospitalized coronavirus patients. The number of those patients in intensive care units also has been trending upward, but more slowly.
Counties reporting the greatest increases are mostly concentrated in Southern California and the Central Valley, with elevated caseloads in Riverside, Kern, and San Joaquin counties.
Among the reasons for the surge: more outbreaks in nursing homes, the reopening of businesses, large gatherings, and more routine testing of patients coming to hospitals for other ailments.
Stanislaus County, for example, is on the state’s watch list because of its recent spike in hospitalizations. Forty-nine people were in the hospital by mid-week, 14 of them in the ICU. Deputy Royjindar Singh, a county spokesperson, said the county is attributing the growth to increased outings as more people come out from sheltering in place.
“Once things opened up, a lot of people started ignoring some of the social distancing protocols,” Singh said. “We’re having more exposure, so our case numbers have almost doubled, and with that our hospital numbers have also gone up.”
The state is also monitoring Kings, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara and Kern County for increased hospitalizations.
In Riverside County, where 299 COVID patients were hospitalized on Saturday, officials are attributing their uptick in hospitalizations to more patients either coming in from skilled nursing facilities and being transferred from neighboring Imperial County, which has the state’s highest COVID hospitalization rate at 48.9 per 100,000 people.
Also a factor: Hospitals are routinely testing more existing patients and those who arrive through emergency rooms with other medical problems, said Riverside County public health spokesman Jose Arballo.
Hospitals have reported cases in which they tested people scheduled for surgery and the results come back positive for coronavirus. “That’s been a bit of a surprise,” he said.
“Certainly as we have increasing amounts of mixing and moving around this is what is expected,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health and human services secretary, said Thursday. “No one is hoping for more hospitalizations, but we certainly prepared the system for this.” The stay-at-home order, he said, was in part to give the state time to prepare its hospitals.
Ghaly said that he doesn’t dismiss the upward trend of hospitalizations in non-ICU settings, but the key point to look at is ICU admissions, which have remained relatively stable.
Amid the ominous trend in statewide hospitalizations this past week, there were also glimmers of good news for some counties. Twenty-one counties in California reported no COVID patients over the weekend.
Many experts regard the hospitalization rate as more important to monitor than the case rate, which can fluctuate widely depending on what percentage of the population is being tested.
Check out how your county is faring compared to other California counties on the CalMatters COVID tracker here — by clicking at the top of each column, you can sort counties to discover those with the greatest or least number of people hospitalized, those with the steepest increases or decreases in hospitalizations, those with the greatest number of people in intensive care, and more.
CalMatters COVID-19 coverage, translation and distribution is supported by generous grants from the Penner Family Foundation, Blue Shield of California Foundation and the California Health Care Foundation.