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California poised to overtake New York with most confirmed coronavirus cases: ‘We got complacent'

2020-07-25

California is on the brink of overtaking New York with the highest number of cumulative coronavirus cases confirmed since the pandemic began.

The Golden State has seen a startling surge in recent weeks, with new daily confirmed cases topping 8,000 over the last week and hitting 9,216 on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Overall, California has confirmed a total of 397,870 coronavirus cases in the state, the latest numbers posted Tuesday say.

By contrast, New York has been adding only around 700 new cases a day for weeks, with its total confirmed cases since the pandemic began hitting 403,418 by late Monday, the data shows.

The reversal of fortunes is remarkable, especially considering California was the first state to issue a full lockdown March 19 and seemed to have successfully bent the curve when it started reopening in May.

Since then, several large counties including Orange and Riverside stopped short of requiring masks, and people in a large state that seemed to dodge a bullet got complacent, experts suggest.

Dr. Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist at UCLA, says California squandered its early gains by rushing to reopen.

“New York had a peak very, very early, and everybody there saw the horror of what could happen. Here in California, we didn’t have that experience. We did not take the risk as seriously, which is a common problem in public health,” Rimoin told the Daily News on Tuesday.

“If you don’t perceive a risk you’re not going to adopt risk-mitigating behaviors,” she said, adding that people are also experiencing “quarantine fatigue.”

“The bottom line is that we opened up too soon in California, and now we’re paying the price. We didn’t eradicate the virus. We just flattened the curve. It’s still spreading in communities because we don’t have herd immunity yet or anything close to it,” she said. “We got complacent.”

Now Los Angeles is on the verge of a second stay-at-home order, with Mayor Eric Garcetti issuing dire warnings it will be unavoidable if the numbers don’t change.

When cases spiked after Memorial Day weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide mask order in mid-June. He then reshuttered indoor restaurant dining on July 13 and said a few days later that counties on the state’s monitoring list won’t be allowed to reopen schools.

The city of Costa Mesa said on its social media accounts over the weekend that it planned to fine people $100 for not wearing face masks in public.

Los Angeles County, meanwhile, has the highest number of cumulative coronavirus cases of any county in the country, with the figure hitting 159,045 as of Monday, according to Johns Hopkins.

By comparison, Queens has 66,401, Kings has 60,775, Bronx has 48,888 and New York has 27,960.