Coronavirus deaths in California top 15,000

Coronavirus deaths in California topped 15,000 on Sunday, according to The Times tracker, a reminder of the staggering toll even as new cases are falling.

As of Sunday, California recorded 15,014 deaths, adding 27 Sunday and 77 on Saturday. The state has more than 785,000 confirmed cases, the most of any state in the nation.

California’s death toll, however, remains far below New York, which has recorded more than 33,000 fatalities. New Jersey has recorded 16,000, and Texas also just crossed the 15,000 mark.

The new milestone comes as California has been seeing a sharp decline in new coronavirus cases after a summer spike that sparked widespread alarm.

The declines have allowed some communities to reopen more businesses and, in a few cases, schools. But officials urged people to remain cautious.

Health officials said the number of new daily cases has climbed over the past four days. Although that could be the result of the reopening of testing centers and an increase in testing, it also may be linked to socializing during the recent holiday weekend, they said.

“The recent increases in the number of new cases is of concern because it may reflect increased exposures associated with Labor Day activities,” L.A. County public health director Barbara Ferrer said.

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County health officials said they will be monitoring the numbers closely. The report comes as the state is riding a new wave of success in combating the coronavirus, with hospitals treating the fewest patients with COVID-19 since April.

The percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus statewide is also lower, with Gov. Gavin Newsom saying the state is “turning the corner.”

On Thursday, Ferrer said the daily average of new cases was still preventing the county from moving to a less restrictive tier for reopening. The county has a daily average of 8.1 cases for each 100,000 residents. That number needs to be under 7.0 for L.A. County to move up from the most restricted tier, Ferrer said.

“If we don’t see a surge in cases and hospitalizations associated with activities over Labor Day, and we continue to reduce our rate of community transmission over the weeks ahead, we could enter Tier 2, which is less restrictive, some time in October,” she said.

Previous holiday weekends during the pandemic have sparked surges of infections, which generally show up two weeks later. Ferrer has said the county should not reopen further until the numbers from Labor Day start coming into focus this week.

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San Francisco will allow inside dining at restaurants when the city moves into the next tier of re-openings, possibly by the end of the month, city officials said Friday.

Indoor dining will be limited to 25% capacity, up to 100 people. The Department of Public Health is working with the restaurant industry to develop health and safety guidelines for the reopening.

“Restaurants have been hit hard by COVID-19,” Mayor London Breed said in a news release. “Many have adapted with takeout and outdoor dining, but they’ve still been barely hanging on and, sadly, some have closed for good.”

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