SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – California continues to boast the lowest coronavirus rate of new cases in the United States, with the latest data from the CDC showing the state’s transmission level has decreased yet again.

California has the lowest per capita rate of new coronavirus cases in the country. It is one of only two states that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rates as having a “substantial” rate of transmission, which is a step below the “high” rate that all other states have.

Right now the state’s seven-day testing positivity rate dropped to 2.2%, down from 2.6% from the last report, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Meanwhile, the state’s coronavirus death toll reached another grim milestone – 70,000 people – on Monday as the state emerges from the latest infection surge.

According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, California recorded the most coronavirus deaths in the nation, surpassing Texas by about 3,000 and Florida by 13,000, although California’s per capita fatality rate of 177 per 100,000 people ranks in the bottom third for the U.S.

“There’s very little if anything ever to compare that to,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health secretary, said of the level of deaths.

Dr. Ghaly said he does not expect California to lock down as it did last year with business closures, social distancing requirements, and capacity restrictions.

“That is not what we’re talking about,” he said. “I think vaccines plus masks in certain (indoor) settings is going to be a significant support of us getting through anything that COVID throws at us in the future.”

To date, 85% of eligible residents have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, with a total of 49.8 million doses administered statewide, the release stated.

As of Monday, more than 70% of Californians are now fully vaccinated, according to the California Department of Public Health.

California was the first to impose a statewide stay-at-home order, in March 2020, and that aggressive action by Gov. Newsom was credited by many with sparing the state from the kind of surge that devastated New York City early in the pandemic.

San Francisco and several other Bay Area counties recently announced plans to begin easing masking requirements as conditions improve.

On Friday, Newsom called that “an encouraging sign,” while also offering caution about moving too quickly.

“This time last year we were experiencing not dissimilar optimism, only to experience that winter surge,” Newsom added.

California recorded 67 cases per 100,000 people in the last week; the nation’s average is 195. And the state’s positivity rate in the last seven days was 2.5% while the country averaged 6.1%

The Associated Press contributed to this report.