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California’s COVID-19 death toll surpasses 60,000

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The COVID-19 death toll in California has exceeded 60,000, according to a Times tally of fatalities reported by county.

The death toll represents roughly 10.7% of COVID-19 deaths nationwide. California is home to about 12% of Americans.

The milestone, recorded Saturday night, comes as California has the 30th worst COVID-19 death rate on a per capita basis of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

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California has the lowest cumulative COVID-19 per capita death rate of the eight most populous states in the nation, according to a Times analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. Besides California, the eight most populous states are Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Georgia.

California has a cumulative COVID-19 death rate, per 100,000 residents, of 153. New Jersey and New York have the highest cumulative death rates in the nation, with death rates per 100,000 residents of 280 and 260, respectively. If California had New York’s cumulative COVID-19 death rate, California’s cumulative COVID-19 death toll would exceed 101,000.

The state has recently observed a dramatic slowing of the average number of deaths being reported daily. In recent days, California has reported an average of 105 to 120 COVID-19 deaths a day — the lowest such number reported since the autumn-and-winter wave began. At its worst, in late January, California was recording as many as 562 deaths a day, on average, over a seven-day period.

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By the weekend, California was reporting an average of 110 deaths a day over the last week; that’s a 14% decrease over the previous week.

The pandemic’s effect statewide has varied by region. Of California’s most populous regions, Los Angeles County has fared the worst. For every 100,000 residents, L.A. County has recorded 232 deaths; if L.A. County were a state, it would have the seventh highest death rate.

The San Francisco Bay Area has fared far better; for every 100,000 residents, the Bay Area has recorded 79 deaths. If the nine-county Bay Area were a state, it would have the 45th highest cumulative COVID-19 death rate in the nation of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Cumulatively, counties in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley have reported the highest per capita death rates in the state, with the 14 hardest-hit counties, in descending order: Imperial, Los Angeles, Inyo, San Bernardino, Stanislaus, Riverside, San Joaquin, Tulare, Fresno, Merced, Kings, Orange, Madera and Kern.

A big contributing factor to the worse death rates in Southern California included the large proportion of residents who must leave home to work and also live in crowded homes, which makes it easier for the coronavirus to spread once a member of a household is infected.

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Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley generally have a higher social vulnerability than the Bay Area, meaning that factors like poverty and crowded housing cause many of these communities to be more vulnerable in a disaster like a pandemic.

Gov. Gavin Newsom faces a potential recall vote over his handling of the pandemic, with critics opposing restrictions he ordered that closed a number of businesses to slow the spread of disease, calling them economically devastating. Newsom has defended the measures as important to save lives, and supporters credit the tough measures as preventing hospital systems from becoming as overwhelmed as happened in places like New York at the start of the pandemic.

In general, of California’s regions, the Bay Area has been the most supportive of the state’s stay-at-home orders.

A Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll conducted in late January found that the Bay Area was most supportive of Newsom’s stay-at-home orders, with 57% expressing trust in Newsom and state officials in setting rules to slow the coronavirus spread. L.A. County was split, with 48% expressing trust and 48% expressing mistrust. Majorities were distrustful of Newsom’s leadership in other regions of the state, including San Diego County, Orange County, the Inland Empire and the Central Valley.

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A more recent poll, conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California in mid-March, found that Newsom’s overall support remains steady, with just 40% of likely voters backing a recall of Newsom and 56% wanting to retain Newsom as governor.

Support for removing Newsom was lowest in the Bay Area, with 27% backing the idea; in L.A. County, 40% backed a recall; 41% did so in San Diego and Orange counties. There was more support for a recall in the Inland Empire, where 47% backed the idea; and the Central Valley, where 49% supported replacing Newsom.

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