California Coronavirus Update: State’s Official COVID-19 Death Toll Passes 10,000

On Friday, after a week of data glitches and an absence of leadership, California officially reported the state has seen more than 10,000 deaths from coronavirus.

While a technical failure in the state’s COVID reporting process, revealed this week, has created an undercount in daily new cases data, it did not impact the tallies for hospitalizations, ICU patients or deaths related to the virus.

On Friday, the state reported 142 deaths over the past 24 hours related to coronavirus, bringing the total to 10,011. The number of new daily cases was 8,436, for a total of 538,416. Reported hospitalizations and COVID-related ICU stays continued to drop, which is curious given the still-high — and potentially much higher, given the undercount — numbers of new cases being reported and the record-breaking numbers of lives being lost to the virus.

One explanation for spiking case numbers and lower hospital/ICU counts statewide could be that the majority of new patients getting the virus in the state’s most populous county is now under the age of 49. But why, then, the high death count?

While state leadership said the data failure only impacted reporting for “the past few days,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the state had told him that the problems extended far beyond that window.

“We don’t believe that it’s something that just happened in the last two or three weeks,” said Garcetti. “The state has told us that these reporting problems may have been throughout.”

On Thursday, L.A. County reported its 200,000th case since the pandemic began.

On Wednesday of this week, the state broke a single-day record for reported coronavirus deaths, with 200 lives lost. That’s up from the previous high of 197, reported last Wednesday.

California’s COVID-19 web site shows that the state averaged 132 deaths per day in the last two weeks. California’s rolling 14-day average was about 60 fatalities before July 4. That average rose to 80 by July 11, climbed to 100 by July 18 and hit 115 by the end of July. It now sits at 130.

Previous to that, the 14-day average of coronavirus deaths in the state dropped from 68 at the start of June to 63 by June 30.

Some models, such as those maintained by Johns Hopkins and the Los Angeles Times had the number of coronavirus deaths crossing 10,000 before the state did.

Whatever the case, the grim milestone makes COVID-19 the state’s seventh biggest cause of death, surpassing diabetes at 9,595 and far above influenza at 6,340. Those ranking numbers are from the CDC for 2017, the latest year available. That year saw a moderate flu season end in January-February and a “a high severity season” begin in November.

Curiously, amid the uncertainty over numbers and now the grim new milestone, Governor Gavin Newsom had not given his regular news conference since Monday, the day before news of the data glitch became widespread. Neither has he made any public statement on the state system’s failure.

Both are unusual for an outspoken governor who has been front-and-center, giving multiple press conferences a week, since the pandemic hit hard in March. In fact, Newsom sent his state health director, Dr. Mark Ghaly, out to announce the glitch on Tuesday by himself. Ghaly was alone at the podium again on Friday.

The bad news for California comes on the same day that New York, at one time the hardest-hit region in the world, announced just five COVID-related deaths and reopened its schools.

“It is just great news,” N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo said at his daily press briefing. “We are probably in the best situation in the country right now.”

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