California's Average COVID Death Toll Hits Record High

The average coronavirus death count in California hit a record high on Thursday, breaking the previous record set just a day earlier.

The state's seven-day average of deaths reached 148 on December 10, surpassing the 146 peak level reported on December 9 and the previous record of 142 set on August 6, according to data compiled by Worldometer.

The average death toll has been rising sharply since mid-November after declining from early August. Earlier in the outbreak, the average death count rose from late March to late April, before flattening out until early July and rising again through early August, according to Worldometer.

Daily deaths in California are projected to reach around 221 by Christmas and around 272 by New Year's Day, even if "vaccine distribution is scaled up over 90 days," according to the latest forecast by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

A spokesperson for IHME explained to Newsweek that the 90-day period refers to "the time it takes to scale up to full capacity for [vaccine] distribution. So for example, in the reference scenario, the maximum number of doses per day is three million, and that scenario assumes 90 days to reach three million doses per day.

"The doses per day figures were based primarily on flu vaccine delivery in the U.S., with approximately 180 million annual seasonal flu vaccines delivered over three months each year.

"In the fast vaccine scenario, the number is doubled (six million doses per day) and the time to reach that point is halved to 45 days," the spokesperson added.

But the state's projected daily death tolls for Christmas and New Year's Day could still be reached even with "rapid vaccine rollout," which would see vaccine distribution scaled up over 45 days, the IHME notes.

The daily death count is forecast to peak on February 18 at around 640 if "governments do not re-impose mandates if cases increase," and it takes 90 days for vaccine distribution to be scaled up to full capacity.

The peak is projected to be more than halved to around 270 if "95 percent mask usage is adopted in public" and vaccine distribution is scaled up over 90 days, according to the IHME.

Total confirmed deaths in the state have surpassed 20,600, as of Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

The state's total death count is projected to reach nearly 25,000 on January 1, even with "rapid vaccine rollout," the IHME predicts.

California's seven-day average of cases hit another record high on Thursday at 27,912. Rising sharply since early November, the average case count has been at record levels since November 19, when it reached 10,468, surpassing the previous record of 10,261 set on July 25, according to Worldometer.

Hospitalizations across the state continue to grow, with at least 12,477 COVID-19 patients reported to be currently hospitalized in California, as of Thursday, according to data compiled by The Atlantic's COVID Tracking Project.

By January 4, the projected number of hospital beds needed (around 27,241) is expected to exceed the number of beds available (26,654), the IHME predicts.

Washington D.C. COVID-19 deaths art installation 2020
A view of the "In America How Could This Happen," an outdoor public art installation in Washington, D.C. where volunteers planted white flags in a field as a reminder of each life lost to COVID-19 in the U.S., pictured on November 30. The average daily death toll in California reached another record high on Thursday. Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

The wider picture

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 69.7 million people, including over 15.6 million in the U.S., since it was first reported in Wuhan, China.

More than 1.5 million people have died worldwide and over 45 million have recovered as of Friday, according to JHU.

The graphic below, produced by Statista, shows the distribution of COVID-19 deaths among the U.S. population.

COVID-19 elderly patients in U.S.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, shows the spread of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

COVID-19 cases across U.S.