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California COVID death double; rural areas, suburbs suffer

California’s second wave of coronavirus has resulted in an almost doubling of weekly deaths since the spring – with nearly 1,000 fatalities in the past week alone – and has radically changed the geography of the outbreak, a Times data analysis found.

Suburban and agricultural areas that had been relatively spared during California’s first boom of the virus are now collapsing. And urban areas such as Los Angeles County and the San Francisco Bay Area report death rates as high, if not higher, than in the spring.

Central Valley has become home to one of the worst coronavirus hotspots in the country.

In eight southern Central Valley counties, COVID-1

9 deaths each week have jumped from about 20 a week in April to nearly 200 a week over the past two weeks, a Times analysis found. San Joaquin Valley residents account for 20% of the most recent deaths nationwide, although they account for about 10% of the state’s population.

During the seven-day period that ended on Monday, 969 deaths were reported across California, the largest weekly death toll since the pandemic began. During the spring, the virus increased, the highest week the death toll was during the week of April 21, when 553 deaths were reported.

In the southern part of the state, suburban regions are also experiencing a sharp increase in deaths. San Bernardino County recorded 128 coronavirus deaths over the seven-day period ending Monday, nearly quadrupling the weekly death toll from 34 the week before. Riverside County’s weekly death toll of 83 last week was about twice as high as it was in April.

Orange County counted 73 deaths last week; for the week of April 21, Orange County recorded six deaths. Ventura County recorded 16 deaths last week; that the county reported fewer than five deaths a week in April.

But overall, perhaps the biggest cause for concern is the Central Valley.

The exacerbated death comes when coronavirus has spread rapidly among key low-wage workers in jobs such as agriculture and food processing. Major outbreaks have been reported at a poultry processing plant in Foster Farms, Merced County; Central Valley Meat Co., a Kings County meat packing plant; and Ruiz Foods, a frozen food packaging company in Tulare County.

It’s clear why the San Joaquin Valley is being negatively impacted, says Edward Flores, a sociology professor at the UC Merces Community and Labor Center. workplace safety rules.

“All these problems … existed before the COVID pandemic. And just like any other inequality, it’s getting bigger now, Flores said. “It was there before – people die at work; people lost their limbs. … Now that there’s a pandemic, those agencies will probably be even more overwhelmed. “

An analysis by the Labor Center found that 34% of San Joaquin Valley employees work in front-line work where there is an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 because employees cannot work from home. More than 40% of the workers in Madera County are important workers – which makes it the county with the third highest proportion of these workers in any other county council.

In contrast, about 18% to 22% of employees in LA, Orange and San Diego counties and the Bay Area work in important jobs, such as agriculture, mining, food production, grocery, transportation, warehousing and healthcare.

Part of the problem, Flores said, is that many of COVID-19’s current health policies “do little for low-wage workers who … cannot afford to take time off work without risking starvation or being evicted.”

Although efforts have been made by the state to give more days of paid leave to workers in the food industry, Flores says he wonders how much workers – especially those in the country illegally – know about these rights and what happens if they are fired when they try to comply rules.

“Employers have a role to play in this, and they are just abandoning their responsibility in the name of trying to make a quick profit,” Flores said, citing employers who threatened workers that they would lose their jobs if they lost their jobs. “As long as we want food on our table, there will be people working in a certain amount of proximity to each other – not just Skyping or Zooma from home – and our policies need to address that.”

Flores said two important things need to be done: to ensure workers are paid if they became infected or needed time off to care for a loved one and to improve and maintain health and safety standards in the workplace.

Recent outbreaks have also been driven by some of the most catastrophic prisoner transfers in California history.

Government officials transferred unconditionally infected prisoners from the California Department of Men in Chino and sawed new cases in Corcoran State Prison in Kings County and triggered a particularly devastating outbreak in San Quentin State Prison in Marin County. The San Quentin eruption has resulted in the deaths of 25 prisoners and a guard so far and has filled hospital beds throughout the Bay Area.

After the first transfer, the infected prisoners from San Quentin were then sent to a prison in Lassen County, which burned outbreaks in rural California in the northeast.

An outbreak of Avenal State Prison has been blamed for infecting Central Valley staff and exacerbating the transmission of diseases in Fresno and Kings counties.

Health experts said some states moved too fast to reopen society after the first wave of coronavirus cases. Gavin Newsom, under pressure to lift months-long residency restrictions in May that had shut down large stretches of the economy, began allowing counties to reopen businesses before meeting their own previously established criteria for reopening safely.

Without naming specific states, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US Government’s top expert on infectious diseases, at a Brown University School of Public Health forum last week that some leaders “skipped some of the checkpoints” recommended for a safer reopening and unloaded stay-home order without waiting for new cases should go down. Outbreaks began to spread in the workplace and viruses were transmitted at barbecues, parties and bars.

The regions of California hardest hit in the earliest phase of the pandemic – Bay Area and LA County – have seen deaths return to – or exceed – spring levels each week.

LA County’s weekly death toll peaked at 329 in late April, then dropped as low as 194 in late June before climbing as high as 327 two weeks ago and 296 last week.

The Bay Area has seen a death toll that is worse even in the spring levels. The region registered as many as 67 deaths in one week in April; two weeks ago, Bay Area registered 81 deaths. Last week there were 72 fatal accidents.

San Diego County recorded its two worst weeks of mortality in mid-July, compiling an average of 56 deaths per week over two weeks – more than double the April average. For the past two weeks, the deaths each week have averaged about 31 a week.

Other counties with strong growth in recent deaths from COVID-19 include Sacramento, Santa Barbara and Sonoma.

Officials still express a remark about optimism: Weekly cases and hospital admissions seem to have reached their second peak, even when they take part in a problem in the state’s reporting system for new cases that were resolved over the weekend.

Last week, there were an average of 5,816 people in hospital every day with confirmed coronavirus infections across the country, the second week in a row there was a decline. The number reached its highest point three weeks ago, when an average of 6,941 people were in the hospital daily for a seven-day period.

Although the state average is declining, not all regions have seen a decline in hospital admissions. The seven county Sacramento area has registered 11 consecutive weeks of increasing hospital admissions.

In the midst of recent growth, elected officials have said they intend to learn from the past as they consider future reopening plans.

“We can all see in retrospect that some things opened up too quickly, that we are not following the do-something-and-wait-three-week methodology and see the effect,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said on July 22. “It became a kind of domino effect with … the irrational abundance of everyone who thought we could rush back to normal.”

Times staff writers Hailey Branson-Potts, Kim Christensen, Taryn Luna, Luke Money, James Rainey, Jake Sheridan and Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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