A warning to data-watchers: Over the past eight months, we have observed that the data coming from states and territories during and after weekends and holidays tend to be erratic. We expect to see this trend in full force over the holiday weekend and for several days afterward. As our managing editor, Erin Kissane, explained on Tuesday, “Holidays, like weekends, cause testing and reporting to go down and then, a few days later, to ‘catch up.’ So the data we see early next week will reflect not only actual increases in cases, tests, and deaths, but also the potentially very large backlog from the holiday.”
On Wednesday, California reported 18,350 new cases, the highest single-day count for any U.S. state during the pandemic. The western state’s single-day case record is followed by Texas’s—15,609—set on the same day. California and Texas are the country’s most populous states; on a per capita basis, California’s and Texas’s case rates are unremarkable compared with the midwestern states we discuss below. Nevertheless, these are large numbers. As of yesterday afternoon, 45 of California’s 58 counties were in the state’s “purple tier,” which indicates that infections are widespread, many nonessential activities are restricted, and nonessential businesses may be closed.
Los Angeles County’s director of public health this week called the region’s current case and death numbers “the most alarming metrics we’ve ever seen,” according to the Los Angeles Times. City health officials on Wednesday released a report estimating that one in 145 people in Los Angeles County—population 10 million—are infected with the coronavirus. A week ago, the report says, that metric was 1 in 250 people.
In California, our COVID Racial Data Tracker shows that the Latino and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander communities have more than three times the cases per capita as the white population. To date, nearly 60 percent of all cases reported by California are for Latino people, who make up slightly less than 40 percent of the state’s population. More than 100,000 new cases among Latino people have been reported in the last month, and 1 in 32 Latino people in California have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders make up less than 1 percent of California’s population, and are similarly affected, with 1 in 33 having tested positive for COVID-19. For comparison, 1 in 99 white people have tested positive for COVID-19. (All of these figures are based on California’s confirmed case count and therefore exclude antigen testing.)
In the national picture, many of the Midwest and Mountain West states we’ve been tracking closely posted very high per capita case numbers this week, with Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming all exceeding 1,000 new cases per day on the seven-day average this week, along with Southwest outlier New Mexico. North Dakota has had the highest per capita number of cases of any state for 10 of the past 12 weeks.