By Hannah Getahun | CalMatters
It has been over a year and a half since COVID-19 first arrived in California, and the demographics of people dying from the virus are changing.
So far, 67,358 people have died in California during the pandemic, more than in any other state. In recent months, the dying are on average younger. And, unsurprisingly, people of color are still among the most devastated by COVID-19, with the highest death rates among Hawaiians / Pacific Islanders and blacks..
Here’s a look at the numbers of COVID-19 deaths in California.
How many are they younger?
Since the start of the pandemic, the average age of Californians who have died of COVID-19 has been 73 years old. But from April to September, the average age dropped to 67, and in August and September, it dropped to 66, according to a California Department of Public Health Analysis of state data.
“We are observing that it was not the older populations that initially dominated a number of deaths during the pandemic,” said Dr Rais Vohra, acting health officer for Fresno County. “It’s now skewing younger and younger people in terms of people hospitalized and – unfortunately – people with a very tragic outcome of death. “
A major reason? Seniors are vaccinated at higher rates than younger residents. About 67% of Californians aged 18 to 49 are fully vaccinated, compared to 73% of those aged 65 and over.
Hospitalizations and infections are on the rise for Californians under the age of 18. But old age – and the underlying conditions that accompany it – will always be a big factor in death rates, said Dr George Rutherford, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University. of California, San Francisco.
What is the racial distribution? Has he changed?
Latinos die at a lower rate than whites and blacks in California, state data shows. However, Latinos have seen the biggest increase in the death rate over the past month, from 2.4 deaths per 100,000 people in August to 4 per 100,000 in September. That rate, however, is far overshadowed by the peak last January, when 11 Latinos died per 100,000.
For blacks, 7.4 per 100,000 people died from COVID-19 this month, up from six deaths per 100,000 in August, but down from 9.3 last January. Death rates in Asian American populations and whites have also increased this month. Asian Americans currently have the second lowest death rate in California.
The culprit is most likely vaccine disparities: Latinos make up 39.4% of California’s vaccine-eligible population, but they only received 29.5% of doses. This means that, proportionally, fewer doses are reaching Latin American communities than they should, according to health experts. Blacks also represent a higher share of the vaccine-eligible population than the doses they received.
One reason for these disparities could be the barriers communities of color still face in accessing vaccines, including medical misinformation and reluctance resulting from medical mistrust, according to Sarah Reyes, the association’s chief communications officer. California Endowment nonprofit, which focuses on improving health care. access in underserved communities.
“People need to understand that the myths and misgivings in the medical community are real,” Reyes said. “They are real for communities that have suffered, historically, from a racist and systemic problem.”
The natives of Hawaii and the Pacific Islands have died at the highest rate of any racial group. But some good news: the rate fell from 18.4 deaths per 100,000 people in January to 17 in August and 11.8 in September.
Is there a growing gender gap?
Men are dying at a slightly higher rate than at the start of the pandemic, state data shows.
In September last year, 45.2% of deaths were women and 54.6% men. But in August 2021, it was 41% women and 58.9% men, showing that the gap is widening in favor of women.
In Long Beach, 70% of deaths since July 2021 have been men, up from 58% from March 2020 to July 2021.
Before the vaccine became available, men accounted for a slightly higher percentage of deaths than women. Now that the gap is widening, vaccinations can play a role.
“I can’t help but think that this is partly due to vaccine failure – differential vaccination failure, which means women are more likely to vaccinate than men,” Rutherford said.
Women are more likely to be vaccinated than men in the state, and there is still a slight gap between the proportion of men who make up the state’s vaccinated population and those who have yet to be vaccinated.
How do deaths in California compare to other states?
California, since last week, has the lowest seven-day death rate nationwide – five people die for every million people – and the lowest rate since January, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, what’s happening in California is happening nationwide: People 64 and under account for a larger share of deaths in 2021 than in 2020. National data also shows that the older you are, the more you have. chance of being vaccinated. .
How do counties compare?
The average age of Californians dying from COVID is younger statewide.
In Fresno County, people aged 50 to 69 now account for a larger share of COVID-19 deaths than before, while those 70 and older account for a smaller share.
In Long Beach, which has its own health department, the average age of COVID deaths since August 2021 is 59, which is 13 years younger than between March 2020 and July 2021. In Long Beach, 99% of people 65 years of age and over are vaccinated.
In Riverside County, people under the age of 45 accounted for 4.1% of total deaths between January and March. Between June and August, that number jumped to 16.1%. Among adults, those under 45 have the lowest vaccination rates.
Eleven people died in Riverside County on September 20 and five of those people were under 40, said Jose Arballo, senior public information specialist at Riverside University Health System-Public Health.
Were most of the people who died not vaccinated?
People vaccinated make up only a small fraction of deaths – around 500. “By far, without a doubt, without a doubt, 95% of (deaths) are from vaccines,” Rutherford said.
Although there is still a potential for breakthrough cases, vaccination makes the development of serious disease much less likely.
So if the best way to prevent death is with the vaccine, how do health officials get young people to get the vaccine? It’s complicated, but warrants – like proof of vaccination to go to restaurants or work in certain places – can help, Rutherford said. Fear can also be a motivator.
“People are afraid of the Delta variant – as they should be,” said Rutherford.