California COVID-19 metrics drop across the board, but will there be another surge?

Tuesday's California coronavirus press conference started on a positive note: case numbers, hospitalizations and other key metrics dropping across the board.

Over the past 24 hours, 12,604 people tested positive for COVID-19.

"We haven't seen a number like this in quite some time," said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly.

Still, transmission remains quite high in most California communities.

"The chance for another surge in California is real. It's still circulating in our communities," said Ghaly. "Our case rates are down but not low."

All but four California counties are in the most restrictive purple tier. Only two counties progressed enough to change reopening tiers: Alpine and Trinity, both moving from red to orange.

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Even as we seem to be coming to the end of the winter surge, there's concern about multiple coronavirus variants, such as the "UK variant" identified in Southern California and the "West Coast variant" identified widely in Santa Clara County. The so-called UK variant is known to be more contagious, and it's too soon to say whether the same is true of the West Coast variant.

The West Coast variant's mutations are similar to that of the UK variant, and therefore "could certainly have a bit more infectiousness," Ghaly said. However, more research is needed.

Another key to curbing COVID-19 spread is more widespread vaccination. Frustrations have been mounting for weeks as eligible seniors struggle to secure a vaccine appointment and providers say they aren't receiving nearly enough doses to keep up with demand.

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There have been 3,523,111 doses administered in California as of Feb. 1, Ghaly said.

He said the state is "beginning to speed up" its vaccination pace, but didn't offer specifics on how California was planning to fix the problem of limited vaccine supply.

Finally, Ghaly warned not to allow Super Bowl Sunday or Lunar New Year events to take us backward in bending the curve.

"Let's not have the Super Bowl become the next beginning of a huge surge here in California. Celebrate the game, watch it with your household, and if you are with people -- like another household in the backyard watching it -- keep your distance, keep your mask on, try to share as little as you can -- except the cheers of the game when it's appropriate.

"So, as I said to you don't fumble this, we're almost there."
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