California's COVID-19 case rate now higher than many Southern states, twice that of Florida's

LOS ANGELES -- California's COVID-19 transmission rate is currently higher than much of the Deep South, including states with fewer pandemic restrictions, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

California's level of community transmission as of Thursday is in the red "high" level of the CDC's four-tiered system, while nearly all southern states are faring better. Several states along the Gulf Coast are at the orange "substantial" transmission level.

Florida, a state whose governor has spoken out against mask mandates and vaccine requirements, boasts an even lower case rate and is at the "moderate" level of transmission.

California's seven-day case rate - roughly 112 per 100,000 - is more than twice that of Florida. And the Golden State's seven-day death rate per 1 million people is 11 times higher than Florida's.

California has embraced a stricter approach in tackling the pandemic and it's among the nation's leaders with about 74% of eligible people with at least one dose of the vaccine.

California earlier this fall had the nation's lowest case rate but is now 16th, Gov. Gavin Newsom said, while the positivity rate for those tested is 2.3% after falling below 1% in June.

While statewide hospitalizations have fallen by about half since a summer peak at the end of August, they have started creeping up in some areas, particularly the Central Valley and portions of Southern California including Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

"We've seen some signs that suggest concerns," Newsom said.

Although Florida has shown better numbers recently, Dr. Michael Ben-Aderet says California's masking and vaccination protocols are paying off when the entirety of the pandemic is considered.

"We've had surges here in California, but even with the density of population in our state, with the number of people, with the big cities that we have, our mortality is significantly lower than these other places," said Ben-Aderet, the associate medical director of hospital epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

The latest CDC statistics show Florida's overall death rate is the eighth worst in the country - 54% higher than California's.

Meanwhile, the last three school districts in Florida that required at least some students to wear masks are dropping their mandates for student facial coverings.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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