California is now the epicenter of the nation’s latest coronavirus surge, yet San Francisco still has one of the lowest case rates of the 20 biggest cities in the U.S.
As the new year approaches and vaccines continue to roll out across the country, case rates and deaths are among the highest they have ever been. But differences among the biggest metro areas across the country are stark.
Some, including San Francisco, Seattle and Detroit, have relatively low case rates. Others are two, sometimes even three times higher, including big cities in Texas and several Southern California counties.
Southern California has been the major driver of California’s recent surge, though several Bay Area cities are also suffering high case rates and deaths.
Here is a look at the most recent case rates (daily average per 100,000 in last seven days) in big metro areas across the country according to the New York Times tracker:
Large metro areas with lower case rates
Seattle appears to have the lowest case rate among the big metropolitan areas nationwide. It was the first coronavirus epicenter in the country, but for the majority of the pandemic, cases have not spiraled out of control.
Like other cities, Seattle experienced its worst surge in late November and early December with an all-time high of 907 new cases recorded on Dec. 4. But since mid-December, cases have been dropping dramatically, with 104 new cases counted on Dec. 26.
Throughout the pandemic, San Francisco has been viewed as a model in the pandemic, leading shelter-in-place orders and mask mandates, and reopening businesses cautiously. It managed to be the only large metro area in California to move to the least restrictive yellow reopening tier in October.
San Francisco is part of the Bay Area region’s shelter-in-place orders mandated by the state, but it has a low case rate compared even to other Bay Area counties, with 27.2 new daily cases per 100,000 population.
Metro areas with higher case rates
Los Angeles County has been reeling from the latest surge, adding more than 42,000 cases Friday and Saturday over the holiday weekend to a total count of more than 719,000. Hospitals are overwhelmed with patients and ICUs are full. The county’s health officer says people gathering and mixing with different households are driving the surge. Officials anticipate the region’s state-mandated stay-at-home orders will need to be extended for several weeks into the new year.
Farther south, San Diego County is also seeing surging cases, though its rate is lower than Los Angeles’. On Sunday, San Diego County reported more than 3,100 new coronavirus cases, its 27th consecutive day with more than 1,000 new daily cases in the pandemic. The county health officer said that infections after Thanksgiving account for 44% of total cases, and at the current trajectory, the county could tally another 600 coronavirus deaths before the end of next month.
In Texas, the country’s second most-populous state behind California, Dallas County is seeing its own holiday surge. Over the Christmas holiday Thursday to Saturday, Dallas County reported an average of 2,000 daily new cases, and hospital resources and staff are being stretched very thin. Officials expect 1,500 more hospitalizations in the county by Jan. 5, which is expected to bring down the quality of care overall. COVID-19 is now the third leading cause of death in Dallas County.
Arizona reported more than 10,000 new cases on Monday, bringing the statewide total past 500,000, with a more than 50 % increase since Thanksgiving. On Saturday, cases in Maricopa County surpassed 300,000. The Latino and American Indian populations have been disproportionately affected by the virus.
The state also set records for the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in one day and the number of COVID-19 ICU admissions. Public health and medical leaders earlier this month asked the governor for stricter protocols, including a statewide mask mandate and a ban on indoor dining.
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