The California Department of Public Health announced earlier this week that the number of deaths caused by COVID-19 topped 100,000 in the state since the pandemic began in February 202o.
Since the first cases and deaths were announced three years ago, COVID-19 counts have seen many rises and falls. Surges in 2020, 2021, and 2022, including the large 2021-2022 winter surge and the most recent rise in the summer of 2022, led the number of COVID-19 deaths in California to dramatically rise. And while the total number of cases and deaths caused by COVID-19 has fallen dramatically since then, enough so that the California COVID-19 state of emergency is to end at the end of the month, the state has said that an average of about 20 deaths per day has continued to be the norm in recent months. With deaths still slowly trickling in, the number finally hit 100,000 this week.
“The heartache of having so many people die weighs heavily on all of us here at public health,” said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer on Friday. “I think it weighs equally heavily on everybody who lives in our county, in our state and our country and the world. Nobody, I think, anticipated this toll. None of us wanted this to lead to so many people losing their lives, and it creates great sadness. It’s hard for our community to recover.
“We’ve had more than 35,000 deaths in LA County alone. Just the magnitude of that is unimaginable, except for the people who have to live with it. And for them, we continue to keep you in our prayers and our thoughts.”
In a statement, the Department of Public Health added that “This milestone is a tragic reminder of the very real toll the pandemic has taken on Californians. Our focus remains on the steps we can continue taking to limit further loss of life due to COVID-19.”
However, the 100,000 mark has been disputed by many, claiming that other factors, such many people having multiple illnesses, misdiagnoses, and some having more terminal illnesses, were what helped inflate the numbers.
“There’s been a lot of cases out there where someone who had COVID died and had it listed as their cause of death, even though larger things were at play there,” explained “Daniel,” a nurse in Los Angeles who wished to remain anonymous, to the Globe on Friday. “Has COVID caused a lot of deaths? Of course it has, but you need to look at the bigger picture. Of those 100,000 deaths, a lot of people had COVID, got something else that unfortunately led to their death, but still had COVID listed as the reason due to the health screenings required at hospitals. So there is a definite overcount.”
As reported by The Hill, many hospitals have had trouble differentiating between patients who died at hospitals with COVID-19 and those who died there from COVID-19.
“Now, there really isn’t any malice to this. I was there during the bad days in 2020 and 2021 when we had patients in hallways and we were worked so much that we fell asleep in our cars in the parking lot because we were too tired to even drive home. A few people have said to me that we added more in to keep people coming to hospitals for more funding, but that made no sense. We wanted people to get better and keep as many people as healthy as possible. Why overwork us, you know? Even the administrators who wanted to give us extra time off because of the workloads we had been pulling, but couldn’t because of the public need.”
“In reality, many had put down the patient had COVID, and that was put down as the reason for death despite other things wrong with them. Now, there still have been a lot of deaths from COVID. A lot. But in California, it probably isn’t 100,000.”
COVID-19 case and death rates are expected to continue to fall throughout the year.
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