California surpasses New York state in confirmed virus cases, now most in US

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California has surpassed New York for the most coronavirus cases in the country, reporting more than 409,000 infections after setting a record on Tuesday for the state's most confirmed new cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic.

The surge of cases comes as California reopened much of its economy in May. Since then, Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered statewide shutdowns for bars and indoor dining while imposing tougher restrictions — including bans on indoor worship services and in-person instruction at schools — on virtually every large county and some small ones where the outbreak is most severe.

But New York still has by far the most coronavirus-related deaths in the country with more than 32,500. It's four times more than California's tally. Its rate of confirmed infections of about 2,100 per 100,000 is twice California's rate.

California's cases have steadily climbed, with the state confirming 12,807 new cases on Tuesday — its highest single-day total since the start of the pandemic.

California is by far the most populous U.S. state, with nearly 40 million people, while New York has about 19.5 million.

“We are a state, again, the size of 21 states combined, so it’s not surprising now in some respects as we begin to reopen key sectors of our economy ... that our numbers would start to go up,” Newsom said Wednesday. “(It's) a sober reminder of why we are taking things as seriously as we are.”

U.S. government data published Tuesday found that reported and confirmed coronavirus cases vastly underestimate the true number of infections, echoing results from a smaller study last month.

The U.S. also has had consistent testing failures that experts say contribute to an undercount of the actual virus rate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study said true COVID-19 rates were more than 10 times higher than reported cases in most U.S. regions from late March to early May. It is based on COVID-19 antibody tests performed on routine blood samples in 16,000 people in 10 U.S. regions.

California initially succeeded in slowing the spread of the virus. But the state has had a sharp reversal, with COVID-19 infection rates climbing sharply in recent weeks.

California residents starting in March were urged to stay home as much as possible. State health orders shut down all but essential businesses such as grocery stores.

Throughout May and June, California reopened much of its economy, and people resumed shopping in stores and dining in restaurants.

The extent of reopening was evident in data that showed California’s unemployment rate fell in June as the state added a record 558,000 jobs.

But infections began to surge, and a new round of business restrictions was imposed, including a ban on indoor dining in restaurants and bars.

Los Angeles County, the nation's most populous with 10 million residents, reported that younger people were driving the spread of new infections.

More than half of the county's new cases came from people under age 41, The county's COVID-19 death total was at 4,154. with positive cases topping 161,670, the county's Department of Public Health said.

“The tragedy of what we are witnessing is that many of our younger residents are interacting with each other and not adhering to the recommended prevention measures, while our older residents continue to experience the results of this increased spread with the worst health outcomes, including death," Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.