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California virus deaths stay high, rate of new infections falling

LOS ANGELES — The rates of new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations are dropping across California, but health officials warn those trends are tempered by very high death rates.

The state reported 593 deaths on Saturday, a day after recording a one-day record of 764, according to the Department of Public Health. California’s death toll since the start of the pandemic rose to 36,361, while total cases reached 3,085,040.

Hospitalizations and newly confirmed cases have been falling, however, and health officials are growing more optimistic that the worst of the latest surge is over.

The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 has slipped below 19,000 statewide, a drop of more than 10% in two weeks.

The 22,972 new cases reported Saturday are less than half the mid-December peak of nearly 54,000. In the last week the state averaged about 29,000 new cases per day, more than 6,000 fewer than the prior week.

The positivity rate for people being tested has dropped by 15% statewide in the last week, which means fewer people will end up in hospitals.

In Los Angeles County, the state’s most populous, the test positivity rate has plummeted 39% over the past three weeks, health officials said.

“While we have come a long way this week with community transmission, we have a long road to go and must continue to practice infectious control measures: wear a face covering and maintain physical distance when out of your home,” the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a statement on Friday.

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