Kern’s Deadliest Days: More people are dying in 2020 than previous years, COVID-19 is only part of the problem

Local News

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — More people are dying in Kern County this year compared to this time in previous years. Coronavirus is to blame but some of the excess deaths remain a mystery.

“It is above what we would expect to find normally,” said Kimberly Hernandez, lead epidemiologist for Kern County Public Health.

Public health officials say the coronavirus is highly-transmissible and killing people in our community. Public records back up those claims.

“There is a very real risk of severe illness and death that we can clearly see in the numbers and the number of people who have died due to Covid,” Hernandez said. “If Covid-19 weren’t here, the basic assumption is those people would still be alive.”

17 News has tracked the total numbers of deaths in Kern County since the beginning of the pandemic. The trends show coronavirus is responsible for the high number of deaths in Kern, especially during the summer months.

17 News has tracked the total number of deaths over the past five years to find trends as our community deals with the coronavirus pandemic.

2020 started out like any other year with total number of deaths. When coronavirus was introduced to our community, the total number spiked. Health officials say the spike in total number of deaths correlates with the number of positive cases of coronavirus in our community.

The increase in deaths was noticeable in May but became overwhelming in June, July and August. Prior to this year, July was one of the least deadliest months of the year. The exact opposite is true for this year.

735 people died in July 2020, making it our deadliest month so far this year. That’s 230 more deaths than July 2018, the second deadliest July in the past five years.

123 of the 735 lives lost in July were coronavirus-related deaths.

Although hundreds of people have died from coronavirus, leading to an overwhelming spike in total deaths, there are hundreds of additional deaths that remain a mystery.

17 News has found 861 more deaths now than this time last year. 406 deaths are attributed to coronavirus but 455 additional lives lost compared to a year ago. Our health officials are still trying to figure out why.

“We know the Covid-19 pandemic has affected all of us in many different ways and that can reflect in our health,” Hernandez said. “It is a little bit more difficult to explain the other deaths because their cause of death is not Covid.”

Health officials say it can take months to confirm death data which can result in a delay in reporting total number of deaths.

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