SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — Predicting a bleak October filled with coronavirus and flu cases, California’s top public health official said Friday the state expects the number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 to nearly double over the next month.
After weeks of reductions in statewide cases and hospitalizations that have led to many counties reopening, California Health and Human Services chief Mark Ghaly told reporters troubling signs are unfortunately beginning to re-emerge. He predicted Covid-19 hospitalizations could spike 89% by the end of October and noted Labor Day gatherings and the ongoing wildfires could be to blame.
“It’s difficult to break them all out; the timing, though, is expected,” Ghaly said during an alarming pandemic update. “We do have concern that these are connected events.”
California leads the nation with over 800,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and is fourth in deaths with 15,400, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The states of Texas (747,000), Florida (695,000), New York (453,000) and Georgia (313,000) round out the top five in terms of confirmed cases. New York meanwhile continues to report significantly more deaths than any other state with 33,100, followed by New Jersey at 16,000.
While California continues to hold the mantle of most infections, hospitalizations and new cases have actually plummeted since a July peak.
In fact, Ghaly on Friday said hospitalizations dropped by 100 overnight for a total of 2,578 and that the state’s 14-day testing positivity rate — a key indicator of community spread of the virus — remains at 3%. In July, testing positivity rates drifted around the 8% mark and at one point nearly 7,000 people were hospitalized.
But Ghaly said the promising trends have slowed and infection rates are beginning to creep up in regions across the state. While the state’s over 400 hospitals have been able to withstand the pandemic’s previous surges, Ghaly said it was critical for them to prepare for the so-called “twindemic” on the horizon.
“We’ve never done Covid hospitalizations with flu hospitalizations,” Ghaly said.
Ghaly reiterated there is plenty of hospital-bed capacity to handle the expected October increase but urged residents to get flu shots to help prevent overcrowding.
The anticipated hospitalization spike is concerning but Ghaly claimed the state and individual counties are better suited than they were in the summer to quickly stem outbreaks. He pointed to the stronger criteria of the state’s new reopening blueprint that better alert public officials to potential red flags.
With another heatwave and extreme fire conditions predicted this weekend, Ghaly implored Californians to avoid crowded spaces and resist the urge to dump their masks.
“We know that we have the tools to do many of the things to reduce transmission,” Ghaly said. “By doing these simple things we can hopefully bring these early trends of increase back down and help us get back to where we were just a week or two ago.”
As for demographics, Latinos make up 61% of the confirmed cases and 48% of Covid-19 deaths the state has been able to track this far. Latinos make up just 39% of the state’s total population. The overwhelming majority of the state’s deaths (82%) are among residents over the age of 60.
According to the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which has been tracking and modeling the pandemic since March, California’s death toll is expected to nearly triple to 43,200 by the end of the year. It also predicts the nation’s toll to steadily increase to a sobering 371,500 by Jan. 1.