SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — UCSF released surprising discoveries regarding the pandemic’s death toll in California on Monday morning.

Researchers said COVID-19 disproportionately killed Black and Latino residents, as well as people who do not have a high school diploma and older adults, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The victims were among a shocking 20,000 deaths in California that would not have happened in a normal year, the researchers found. However, researchers said the additional deaths could also be from other causes.

Even so, the state’s orders to shelter in place did help keep the death count lower, the researchers said.

“The early shutdown worked for California,” said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UCSF and the senior author of the paper. “Mortality rates that were rising early in the pandemic dropped substantially in a timeframe that coincides with the shutdown. But, importantly, not all Californians seemed to benefit.” 

The analysis also showed that Black people in California had the highest excess death, which slowed towards the end of lockdown.

But the lockdown did not work to prevent additional deaths in the Latino communities, who make up 40% of the state’s population.

Researchers attribute this to Latinos working in essential industries — keeping grocery stores stocked, delivering food to people able to stay home and other work that stayed open while most of the state was locked down.

“Once lockdown ended, per capita excess deaths went up for everyone, regardless of their racial or ethnic group, or their level of education,” UCSF said.

Now California is in its second lockdown, with regional stay-at-home orders in effect throughout the state except the Northern California region.

The state continues to see rising numbers in its cases and deaths, even with new restrictions in place since about mid-November.

As of Monday, 46,474 new cases were reported statewide (2.6% increase from prior day) and 161 new deaths (0.7% increase from prior day).

The state’s data confirms what UCSF researchers have found about who is dying more from this virus.

According to the state, over half of all of California’s positive cases have been Latino people. Close to half the deaths are also Latino people.

The state also confirms UCSF’s findings on the impact on older adults. Seventy four percent of COVID deaths were adults older than 65 years old.

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