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California records 18,350 new COVID-19 cases in past 24 hours

California recorded 18,350 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, according to the latest data released Wednesday by the Public Health Department.

This is the highest number of cases reported in a single day since the start of the pandemic, and comes at a time when public health officials are pleading with residents to avoid gatherings and travel over the Thanksgiving Day holiday.

The state also reported 106 deaths in the last day. During the height of the summer surge, the state had several days where deaths topped 100, and on July 31, the count soared to 218.

The state has implemented more than 22 million tests since March and in the last 24 hours, 168,988 tests were administered.

Cases in California are rising at an alarming rate, and the increase in cases is more dramatic than in the summer.

The state’s positivity rate was 5.9% across 14 days Wednesday, compared with 3.9% two weeks ago, marking a 51% increase.

Hospitalizations statewide have increased 81% in the past two weeks and by more than 400 patients in a day.

“Statewide, I don’t believe we’ve ever seen as many hospital admissions increase like we did just in the past 24 hours,” state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said at a Tuesday press briefing.

Ghaly has said about 12% of those infected will wind up in hospitals within two to three weeks.

Forty-five counties, with nearly 95% of the state’s population, are now in the state’s COVID-19 “purple” tier, which has the most restrictive rules for business operations. Those include a ban on indoor dining, limiting outdoor dining capacity and a nighttime curfew.

The Bay Area has seen a less severe pandemic than other parts of the country and state, but the region is also struggling to curb transmission, and Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, Sonoma, Napa and Santa Clara are all purple. Marin and San Mateo are both red and San Francisco is expected to regress from red to purple in coming days.

“We remain just one tier down from the most restrictive tier of purple, which triggers rollbacks of additional activities and requires abiding by the state’s limited stay-at-home order,” said S.F. Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax on Tuesday in a live update of the city’s situation streamed on Facebook. “We are fast approaching the case count to be reassigned to the purple tier. Tier reassignments may occur any day of the week, and may occur more than once a week when the California Department of Public Health determines immediate action is needed. We expect to move into that more restrictive purple tier sometime soon, perhaps later this week.”

Referring to a graph comparing the city’s fall surge to the one in summer, Colfax added, “You see that line pretty much goes straight up. If this trend holds, we will be assigned the purple tier.”

Regardless of the city’s tier status, cases in the city are increasing at an unprecedented rate. An example Colfax gave to show the surge: The week ending Nov. 4, S.F. recorded an average of 73 new daily cases; the week ending Nov. 11, it went up to 95 new daily cases; and the week ending Nov. 18, the average leapt to 118.

Santa Clara County recorded its highest single-day new case count Tuesday with 512 cases reported and saw its highest number of hospitalizations with 197 patients.

“The ability for our hospitals to care for the most critical patients is a critical concern when dealing with COVID-19,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, COVID-19 testing officer for the county of Santa Clara. “The more we protect ourselves and our families from COVID-19, the less likely we will be filling up hospital beds.”

Outside the Bay Area, the virus is spreading exponentially in some areas. Sacramento County on Tuesday reported nearly 1,000 new infections for its highest one-day total and three times the level of just a month ago.

Los Angeles County, the state’s largest, has seen a fourth of all COVID-19 cases and this week passed a threshold set by county public health officials to trigger a three-week stay-at-home order — the first major lockdown since spring.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health did not immediately issue that order Tuesday but the rapid rise in cases made its adoption more and more likely.

“Our metrics are the most alarming metrics that we’ve ever seen,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Tuesday. “Inaction in the face of this devastating acceleration of cases will cause irreparable harm.”

The county already has issued an order banning in-person restaurant dining as of Wednesday night for three weeks.

Los Angeles has begun to require travelers arriving to by airplane or train to sign a form acknowledging California’s recommended two-week self-quarantine in response to surging coronavirus cases.

Anyone over the age of 16 coming from another state or country must submit the form online before or upon arriving at Los Angeles International Airport, Van Nuys Airport or Union Station.

City officials said those who don’t submit the form may face a fine of up to $500.

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the requirement on Monday as he warned the virus was “threatening to spiral out of control” in Los Angeles.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.