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Calif.’s positivity holds at all-time low as virus surges in some counties

California’s COVID-19 numbers are looking good, but experts warn that we shouldn’t let our guard down as some pockets of the state struggle with outbreaks.

California has reached an all-time high for COVID-19 testing, and the percentage of those tests coming back positive has reached its lowest point since the start of the pandemic.

Across the past two weeks, the state has tested an all-time high average of 122,000 tests a day, and the percentage of those tests coming back positive has held at 2.6% since Tuesday, the lowest point since the start of the pandemic and less than half the positivity rate of when the virus surged across the state in July.

What’s more, the death rate has steadily decreased in California since this summer, reaching a 14-day average of 142 in August and a low of 70 over the weekend.

UCSF’s Dr. George Rutherford said on KCBS this morning the numbers are good news, but warned, “This is not a time to take a victory lap.”

“There are hot spots around the state, including Sonoma County close to the Bay Area, and possibly some more activity in Marin and Solano,” Rutherford added of the local counties that are struggling to control the virus.

Sonoma is the only county in the Bay Area still in the most restrictive purple tier in the state’s reopening structure, meaning the virus is widespread and certain businesses are restricted from reopening.  As of Monday, the county’s adjusted case rate is 10.8 cases per 100,000 residents, and the positivity rate is 5%.

Rutherford also noted Shasta County has experienced the state’s worst outbreak in recent weeks with a positivity rate of 6.9% and 13 cases per 100,000 residents.

These numbers may be surprising in this pocket of Northern California known for vast open spaces and endless forests, but COVID-19 outbreaks across the country have shown that the virus can spiral out of control anywhere. The spike in Shasta County is being driven by spates of cases at an evangelical school and a nursing facility in Redding, the county’s largest city (pop. 91,000).

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South Dakota reports all-time high for daily COVID-19 toll

South Dakota health officials reported all-time highs for the toll of the coronavirus on Thursday, with 13 deaths and 747 more people who tested positive. State epidemiologist Josh Clayton said communities statewide – from cities to rural areas – are seeing significant levels of the virus. He noted that that 245 of the infections reported were backlogged from previous days after a reporting error.

One of the largest outbreaks came from a women’s prison in Pierre as mass testing revealed that 29 more women in one housing unit had the virus. A total of 197 prisoners and staff have tested positive and 110 have recovered.

The state has seen the nation’s second-highest number of new infections per capita over the last two weeks, with 578 new cases per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins researchers.

Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said that hospitals in the state remain capable of handling coronavirus patients. She acknowledged that patients may have been transferred out of state as hospital systems shift people around to provide everyone with adequate levels of medical care.

Over the course of the pandemic, 23,136 people have tested positive for the virus. About 82% have recovered, but 3,832 have active infections and 236 have died.

The surge in South Dakota cases has not put a stop to Republican Gov. Kristi Noem’s tourism pitch. In a video recently posted on Twitter, she declares:  “This is how we do social distancing in our state.” Noem then shoots what appears to be a pheasant and says, “Less COVID, more hunting. That’s the plan for the future.”  

Noem has carved out a reputation among conservatives nationwide for her hands-off approach to the pandemic. She has also aggressively marketed South Dakota as a tourist destination.  

On Wednesday, Noem tweeted: “The biggest lesson we’ve learned from #COVID19: more freedom (NOT more government) is the answer.” 

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