This Former Hotspot Now Has the Lowest COVID Case Rate in the Country

Once a COVID epicenter, this state is now seeing fewer cases per capita than any other.

Throughout the COVID pandemic, there have been a handful of states that have earned attention as hotspots for the virus: New York, California, Florida, and Texas, among others. As the pandemic has progressed and shifted, these areas have gone through different stages of infection, with some moving from epicenters to success stories. As many parts of the country are still experiencing a high number of COVID cases amid the Delta variant surge, one former hotspot now has the lowest per-capita rate nationally.

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In Dec. 2020, California became the first state in the U.S. to report 2 million COVID cases. As of Sept. 20, the state has more than doubled that number, with over 4,400,000 cases of COVID reported. But the state is now making a significant turnaround.

CBS reported that, as of Sept. 18, California is currently boasting the lowest positivity rate per 100,000 people, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The data shows that on Sept. 18, there were 24.99 new confirmed COVID cases per every 100,000 people in California. Over the past eight weeks, California reported a daily average of 8,163 new COVID cases, according to the California Department of Health.

Other previously plagued states have also seen a decline in their positivity rates. CBS reported that Maryland has a rate of 25.34 cases per 100,000 people, and New Jersey has 26.74 cases per 100,000. Meanwhile, Florida remains an epicenter with the highest positivity rate in the country: 262.40 cases per 100,000 people, data from Johns Hopkins shows.

The drop in COVID cases in the state is likely a result of widespread vaccination. According to the state's official website for COVID, more than 77 percent of California's eligible population has had at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. On Sept. 18, California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted about this victory. "Over 70 percent of Californians are vaccinated with at least one dose. We now have the lowest COVID case rate in the nation," he wrote. "Vaccines are how we end this pandemic."

While breakthrough cases remain a possibility, this turnaround for California shows that high vaccination rates can help suppress surges. UCSF epidemiologist Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, PhD, told The New York Times that the Delta variant is too contagious to eradicate, even in communities with impressive vaccination rates, but she reiterated that the shots are an essential part of reducing future surges.

"It all starts and ends with vaccination. It doesn't mean once you cross some magical threshold, the virus magically disappears," Bibbins-Domingo told the NYT. "How many people are vaccinated—it's like how many barriers can you put up to withstand the onslaught."

In addition to high vaccination rates, California is also mindful of mask use and other precautionary measures. As of Aug. 20, Los Angeles County began requiring face coverings for people attending large outdoor events, including concerts, festivals, and sports games, even if they're vaccinated.

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