California seeing record-breaking numbers of COVID-19 deaths, a lagging indicator of winter surge

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California is continuing to see record-breaking deaths from COVID-19, a lagging indicator of the winter surge that is coming even as overall coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have flattened and started to slightly decline.

The state broke the record Thursday for most COVID-19 deaths in a single day: 736, surpassing the mark set on Jan. 15, when 700 deaths were reported. California is still averaging about 500 deaths a day over the past week, one of the worst such figures of the pandemic, but slightly lower than a week ago, when the state was averaging 534 deaths a day.

Los Angeles County recorded 246 deaths on Thursday; the average daily number of deaths has been at 200 or above for nearly two weeks. Because it takes weeks for infections to result in hospitalizations, and then more weeks before hospitalizations result in deaths, it is expected that deaths will continue to be high even as hospitalizations begin to decline.

Of nearly 36,000 cumulative COVID-19 deaths statewide, more than 10,000 have been reported since New Year’s Eve, including more than 4,500 in L.A. County. The state’s most populous county, which has tallied more than 14,600 deaths, accounts for roughly 41% of California’s cumulative COVID-19 deaths, despite being home to only a quarter of the state’s population.

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