Weekly coronavirus death rate in LA County is 70% higher than in the Bay Area: Why is it so bad?

As Los Angeles County decides in the coming days whether to implement a new mask mandate, the rising number of coronavirus deaths is worth noting.

LA County’s weekly COVID-19 death rate is much higher than the San Francisco Bay Area. Per capita, L.A. County has 96 deaths per week for every 10 million residents, while the Bay Area has 56 deaths per 10 million residents.

In other words, LA County’s recent weekly COVID-19 death rate is more than 70% higher than the Bay Area’s rate.

At some points in June, the two regions’ deaths were closer to each other. But something changed in July, and the death rate in LA County skyrocketed, not matching that of the Bay Area.

There are a variety of reasons why LA County has such a high death rate. L.A. County, the nation’s most populous county, is structurally more vulnerable to COVID-19 waves due to high levels of poverty and overcrowding. Additionally, vaccination and booster rates are generally higher in the Bay Area, and anecdotally, some have found that voluntary masking is more common in the Bay Area than in LA County.

LA County has been one of the hardest hit counties in California since the pandemic began. Of the state’s 15 most populous counties, L.A. County has one of the worst overall rates of COVID-19 deaths — about 3,200 deaths per million residents. (San Bernardino County has an even worse rate, with about 3,700 deaths per million residents.)

Conversely, the Bay Area’s overall death rate is much lower than LA County’s. The Bay Area’s overall death rate is about 1,200 deaths for every million residents.

L.A. County could introduce a new universal indoor mask mandate in public places on Friday if pandemic conditions don’t improve in the coming days. The Bay Area is not currently publicly considering a mask mandate.

As of Friday evening, LA County had averaged 6,600 new COVID-19 cases per day over the past week, a 2% weekly decrease. On a per capita basis, that’s 460 new cases per 100,000 residents per week; A score of 100 or more is considered high.

At a press briefing last week, county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer was asked why her agency’s approach to the mask mandate was different from other counties in the state, and she pointed to factors that make L.A. County particularly vulnerable, including its size and population of 10. million, of which 2 million remain unvaccinated.

The county is also home to a large number of elderly residents who are at high risk for serious health outcomes from COVID-19, as well as nursing homes and industrial workplaces, where transmission can be particularly problematic.

The data also show that COVID-19 disproportionately affects black and Latino residents, as well as those living in poor neighborhoods in LA County.

“Decreasing transmission rates benefits everyone, but it also reduces the risks for particularly vulnerable people,” Ferrer said.

L.A. County has seen a rapid increase in admissions rates for senior residents in recent weeks.

“When people spread the misinformation that current COVID won’t affect or harm anyone, the people they’re dismissing are our elders,” Ferrer said.

Weekly cases of COVID-19 are showing early signs of leveling off in Los Angeles County, but it’s too early to tell if this is a blip or the start of a sustainable trend. The latest numbers don’t show a dramatic drop in cases, but if the trend continues in the coming days, Ferrer said his agency could put a pause on implementing a universal mask mandate for indoor facilities.

During the pandemic wave in the late spring and summer, health officials in most Bay Area counties did not publicly address the need to renew local mask mandates. The only exception was that Alameda County repealed its mandate on June 3, three weeks after implementing it.

Since early May, LA County’s COVID-19 death rate has surpassed the Bay Area’s for a 12-week period.

Between May 1 and Friday, LA County reported 664 COVID-19 deaths, while the Bay Area reported 389 deaths. On a per-capita basis, that means — during this 12-week period — L.A. County recorded 658 deaths for every 10 million residents, while the Bay Area recorded 464 deaths for every 10 million residents.

In other words, if LA County had the same death rate as the Bay Area, LA County would have seen a nearly 30% reduction in deaths over the past 12 weeks — about 200 deaths.

If the Bay Area had LA County’s death rate, the Bay Area would have seen more than 40% more deaths during the same period – an additional 160 deaths.

Estimates for the Bay Area include the nine counties adjacent to San Francisco Bay, as well as Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, which matches the state Department of Health’s definition for the area.

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