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Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly
Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly CA Department of Public Health

California on Tuesday added slightly more than 12,000 new Covid-19 cases, the lowest daily case count in a state roiled by a dramatic holiday surge since Thanksgiving, according to data from the state health department. 

“We haven’t seen a number quite like this in some time,” Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said in a news conference. Just two weeks ago, the state reported an average daily count of about 40,000 new cases.

But while state health officials are seeing signs of optimism after the darkest months yet of the pandemic, they are renewing calls to avoid gatherings ahead of the Super Bowl and Lunar New Year, cautioning it could lead to another deadly surge of the virus that has claimed the lives of more than 41,000 Californians.

Looking ahead: Hospitalizations are projected to drop by more than half over the course of the next month, Ghaly said. In the past two weeks, there has been a 29% decrease in hospitalizations with more than 14,000 patients receiving treatment. About 3,800 of those people are in intensive care units. 

Those projections have led to the regional stay-at-home orders being dropped statewide. ICU capacity projections were a driving force in those restrictions, and now the entire state is expected to be well above the 15% threshold set by the state. In stark new projections, Southern California, which has been the state’s hardest hit region, is expected to have the most ICU capacity in the state by this time next month.

But more than 1,000 instances of Covid-19 variants have been detected in California to date – two different versions of the West Coast variants along with the UK variant.  

“Variants create another wildcard,” Ghaly said, adding that the new strains are cause of genuine concern that are being closely watched as the state continues to actively sequence mutations and build up capacity to do more.

“If you give Covid an inch, it will take a mile,” he cautioned.