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COVID-19 cases fall in California, but it's still the state with fastest rate of spread

Mike Stucka
USA TODAY NETWORK

California reported 267,947 new cases of coronavirus in the week ending Saturday, down 3.6% in the previous week. Then, 278,053 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19 were reported.

California ranked No. 1 among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis, a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the latest week the United States added 1,435,654 reported cases of coronavirus, an increase of 8.2% from the week before. Across the country, 35 states had more cases in the latest week than they did in the week before.

Testing has changed around the holidays, making comparisons difficult. Labs and testing sites closed. People traveled or prepared for the holidays instead of getting tested. Some counties and states didn't report data as quickly.

Across California, cases fell in 37 counties, with the best declines in Fresno, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

>> See how your community has fared with recent coronavirus cases

Why? For months, California kept a lid on COVID-19. Now it's leading the surge

The share of California test results that came back positive was 14% in the latest week, compared with 11.3% in the week before, a USA TODAY Network analysis of COVID Tracking Project data shows. In the latest week, 1,944,900 tests were administered; a week earlier, that figure was 2,334,293. Experts say it is important to look at the share of tests that come back positive, not just case counts, to get a better idea of whether the rate of new infections is changing or if differences in testing are playing a role.

The World Health Organization says places should be conducting enough tests to have fewer than 5% coming back positive. Places where the percentage is higher could struggle to complete contact tracing soon enough to prevent spread of the virus.

Within California, the worst weekly outbreaks on a per-person basis were in Lassen, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties. Adding the most new cases overall were Los Angeles County, with 99,762 cases; Riverside County, with 21,984 cases; and San Diego County, with 21,853. Weekly case counts rose in 21 counties from the previous week. The worst increases from the prior week's pace were in Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Clara counties.

In California, 2,324 people were reported dead of COVID-19 in the week ending Saturday. In the week before that, 1,636 people were reported dead.

A total of 2,391,261 people in California have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and 26,538 people have died from the disease as of Sunday, according to state officials. In the United States 20,566,479 people have tested positive and 351,233 people have died, Johns Hopkins data shows.