L.A. and Orange counties post highest COVID death rates in 11 months

A woman wearing protective gear and holding a tablet computer takes information from a driver in a line of cars
The Rev. Felicia Bagneris takes information from a motorist at a drive-through COVID-19 testing site at First African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Los Angeles on Jan. 29.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles and Orange counties are reporting their highest COVID-19 death rates in 11 months.

Los Angeles County recorded 103 fatalities Wednesday — the highest single-day tally since last March, according to county data. Another 81 deaths were reported Thursday.

And Orange County reported 136 COVID-19 deaths over the last week, also the highest such numbers since last March, according to a Times analysis of state data released Thursday.


L.A. County has averaged more than 70 COVID-19 deaths a day over the last week. That’s double the peak death rate during the summer Delta wave, when the county averaged 35 deaths a day, although it remains less than one-third of the pandemic’s high last winter of about 240 deaths a day.

At the current rate, the county is on track to record its 30,000th COVID-19 death within weeks.

L.A. County has posted triple-digit daily death tolls several times this winter — 102 on Jan. 20, 101 on Jan. 28, and 102 on Feb. 2.

The trends in Los Angeles County are consistent with those statewide.

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California is averaging more than 180 COVID-19 deaths a day, higher than the peak of the summer wave of 135, though lower than last winter’s peak of 545 deaths a day. The state has reported more than 81,000 deaths overall.

Nationally, between 2,300 and 2,400 COVID-19 deaths are being reported daily, higher than the summer Delta peak of 1,900 but still lower than last winter’s peak of 3,400. The U.S. has reported more than 912,000 COVID-19 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Orange County has seen its weekly COVID-19 death count significantly increase since mid-November, when 30 deaths a week were reported. Now, weekly death tallies have fluctuated between 73 and 136.


“I expect to see in the next at least two months continued high death numbers. And unfortunately, what we’re seeing is the majority of those cases are people who are above 65, and the majority again, are still people who are unvaccinated,” said Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, a deputy health officer for Orange County.

Still, “there is a small portion of people who are fully vaccinated [and] not boosted; and there’s a very small portion of people who were vaccinated and boosted” who have died of COVID-19, Chinsio-Kwong said.

That’s why even vaccinated and boosted people who are elderly and have underlying health issues, such as a weakened immune system, should take precautions against getting infected, officials say.

“So it’s still very important for the community to follow precautions when they’re out and about, or just consider their situation when deciding what to do. Even if there is no more mask mandate, again, everyone needs to take precaution, especially if they know that they’re in a higher risk group,” Chinsio-Kwong said.

Most of California’s counties are set to lift mandatory mask mandates for vaccinated people in most indoor public settings on Wednesday, except for two of the most populous counties, which are expected to wait a few more weeks.

Unless case rates stop falling at their current pace or a new problematic variant emerges, Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties are on track to lift their local indoor mask orders in March.


Other mask requirements still apply across the state, including requirements to wear face coverings in healthcare settings, indoor K-12 schools and childcare settings, and public transportation. Unvaccinated people are still required to wear masks in indoor public settings, but there is no enforcement or verification mechanism behind that requirement.

Even with the mask mandate set to expire in Orange County next week, Chinsio-Kwong suggested that vaccinated people still wear masks in indoor public settings to increase their protection from infection.

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“While fully vaccinated individuals are no longer required to mask indoors, we still recommend that you continue to wear a mask indoors, regardless of your vaccination status — especially those who are at high risk or living with loved ones who have co-morbidities, or who are immunocompromised or prone to getting sick,” Chinsio-Kwong said.

Different regions of California are experiencing varying daily death rates. Southern California and the Central Valley have weekly death rates that are more than double that of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Southern California is reporting 3.6 deaths for every 100,000 residents over the last week, while the Bay Area, which has among the state’s highest vaccination and booster rates, is reporting 1.6 deaths for every 100,000 residents.

The Central Valley’s rates are even worse than Southern California, with Greater Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley reporting about 4 deaths for every 100,000 residents over the last week.