CDPH says strict public health measures are to thank for California’s turnaround in COVID transmission rates


Soraya Marashi


Amid the Delta surge, California’s current COVID-19 community transmission rate is one of the lowest in the country. This signifies a major shift from just months ago, when California was considered the epicenter of the pandemic in the country.


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As of Thursday, California had an infection rate of 64.1 cases per 100,000 over the past seven days, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The state also currently reports the lowest death rate in the country with 0.2 deaths per 100,000 people over the past week, compared to the national death rate of 2.4 per 100,000.

California is one of the eleven states in the country with a community transmission level classified as “substantial,” while the vast majority of other states have a “high” level of community transmission (meaning 100 cases or more per 100,000 over seven days). The state was also briefly the only to be marked with a “moderate” level of community transmission (meaning 10 to 49.99 cases per 100,000 over seven days) before recently increasing back to “substantial”.

California’s considerable improvement marks a sharp contrast to their situation in the final months of 2020. As the first state to surpass 2 million cases of COVID-19 in December, merely six weeks after passing 1 million, the infection rate had greatly outpaced other states, at one point averaging nearly 44,000 cases a day. 

Los Angeles County, in particular, was leading the surge, representing one-third of COVID-19 cases in the state and nearly 40% of deaths. At one point, the county’s hospitalizations reached 6,500, with 20% of those cases in the ICU.  

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) told State of Reform in a written statement that the stark contrast between then and now can largely be attributed to the strict public health measures implemented by the state — namely, widespread vaccination campaigns and requirements.

“The state has implemented public health measures, including recommending masking indoors for everyone, vaccinations for health care workers, and vaccine verification or testing for K-12 school employees, state employees, visitors at health care facilities and event attendees.”

However, CDPH maintains that even in light of improving data, efforts to contain COVID-19 must not stop, especially with the onset of flu season in the coming months. 

“The risk for COVID-19 exposure and infection will remain in California until we reach community immunity with vaccinations, especially in communities heavily impacted by COVID-19. Continued use of face coverings helps prevent COVID-19 transmission among people with higher risk of infection (those who are unvaccinated or immunocompromised), those with prolonged, cumulative exposures, and individuals whose vaccination status is unknown. While California has administered more vaccines than any other state, we have more work to do.”

The CDC reports that California has a total vaccine distribution rate of 135,958 per 100,000, one of the highest in the country. CDPH also stated they are constantly assessing conditions to update measures in place.

“The data and science clearly demonstrate vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19, including the Delta variant. Unvaccinated individuals are still required to wear masks in indoor public places. California has updated its masking guidance after reviewing new CDC recommendations and recommends that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask in indoor public places. California continues to assess conditions on an ongoing basis to determine whether to update any requirements or recommendations.

The most important action we can take to end the pandemic is getting vaccinated, which saves lives, prevents serious illness, and reduces the spread of COVID-19.”