But while this increase in case counts has understandably raised alarm, Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden's chief medical adviser, told ABC on Sunday that people should focus more on COVID-19 hospitalization numbers, which are climbing at a much slower rate than they were during last winter’s surge, when very few people were vaccinated.
"As you get further on and the infections become less severe, it is much more relevant to focus on the hospitalizations as opposed to the total number of cases," he said, also noting that while omicron is more transmissible than previous variants, it appears to generally cause less serious illness — especially among people who are fully vaccinated.
Andrew Noymer, a public health professor at UC Irvine, echoed that position.
"Hospitalizations are where the rubber meets the road," Noymer told The Associated Press. Although not perfect, he added, "it’s a more objective measure. If I had to choose one metric, I would choose the hospitalization data."
Still, COVID hospitalizations in California are rising briskly (although not nearly as fast as the record increases in many other states): On Thursday, there were 9,279 confirmed COVID patients in hospitals across the state, a more than 180% increase from a month ago. But that's still much less than the huge spike in COVID hospitalizations throughout the state last January, which peaked at close to 21,000, leaving many hospitals stretched dangerously thin. Also unlike year at this time, ICU numbers throughout the state are increasing at a relatively moderate pace, and the COVID-related death rate has remained largely stable.
The following map, based on California Department of Public Health data, and updated daily, shows the total number of reported hospital patients per county who have confirmed or suspected cases of COVID, as well as the number of those patients in hospital intensive care units (ICUs). It also shows the remaining number of ICU beds available in each county and the rate of hospitalizations per 100,000 residents.