By nearly every major metric, the spread of the virus is profoundly more dire in Southern California. The San Francisco Bay Area has 4 percent of its intensive care beds still available and the far north of California 25 percent. Southern California reached zero percent weeks ago.
Los Angeles County has reported more cases this week than San Francisco has reported during the entire pandemic.
“It’s night and day,” said Dr. Bob Wachter, a professor and chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
The reasons for the split, experts said, are complex, and many.
The Bay Area has among the highest average incomes in California, perhaps giving residents more means to protect themselves. Many in the north are employed in the technology industry, which early in the pandemic led the move to working at home. Compared with Southern California, the Bay Area also has a higher percentage of white and Asian households, groups that have had the lowest rates of infection in the state.
In the Los Angeles area, in the parking lot outside the Community Hospital of Huntington Park, Mr. Estrada has watched as more than a dozen bodies have been brought to an unmarked white refrigerated container, the makeshift morgue.
“Basically you’re waiting to see your family member come out in a bag,” he said.
His grandmother, who is 72, was recently placed on a ventilator.
“She’s in a fight right now,” he said. “So if she’s fighting, we got to stay out here fighting for her.”
Manny Fernandez reported from Los Angeles, Thomas Fuller from Moraga, Calif., and Mitch Smith from Chicago. Reporting was contributed by Louis Keene from Huntington Park, Calif., Ana Facio-Krajcer from Los Angeles and Joe Purtell from San Francisco.