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California enters a crucial phase in its battle against the Delta variant this week — the reopening of schools — with some hopeful signs: The number of people being infected and falling seriously ill with COVID-19 is no longer accelerating at dramatic rates and even beginning to flatten in some areas.

Many experts are optimistic over the progress, but some officials stressed it’s too early to know definitively whether the surge caused by the highly contagious strain is peaking.

California is now reporting about 11,800 new coronavirus cases a day over the last week, up 7% from the previous week, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis. That’s a far slower pace of increase than in the previous week, when there was a 30% jump in daily cases, and much better than in early July, when there was an 86% week-over-week increase. Daily cases remain far below the pandemic peak of nearly 45,000 new cases a day.

The rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations is also slowing. California on Sunday reported 7,166 people with COVID-19 in its hospitals, up 20% from the previous week. But that’s an improvement from late July, when there was a 50% week-over-week jump in hospitalizations, and still far below the wintertime peak of 22,000.

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