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California's 2020 Death Rate Increased by 19% Due to COVID-19

California’s average death rate increased by 19 percent in 2020 compared to the past three years, as a result of the roughly 51,000 people that died of COVID-19.

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In total, 51 of California’s 58 counties recorded death rates above the three-year average, including 12 that had increases of 20 percent or more, according to the Associated Press.

“As the pandemic recedes and with changes in federal immigration policy, we expect to return to more normal immigration trends into California from other countries,” said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the Department of Finance. “All of which means that by the time we do this same projection 12 months from now, we expect that 2021 will show a return to a slightly positive growth rate.”

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

California reported a 19 percent increase in its death rate in 2020 due to the coronavirus. Above, embalmer and funeral director Kristy Oliver (right) and funeral attendant Sam Deras load the casket of a person who died after contracting COVID-19 into a hearse at East County Mortuary on January 15, 2021, in El Cajon, California.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

State officials announced Friday that California’s population fell by more than 182,000 people—or 0.46 percent—marking the first year-over-year loss ever recorded in the state. The drop is due to a declining birth rate, a decrease in international immigration, and an increase in deaths due to the pandemic.

The state’s four most-populated cities—Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco—lost a combined 88,000 people. L.A. dropped the most at nearly 52,000 and has now lost about 75,000 people in the last three years to fall to an overall population of just over 3.9 million.

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California became a state in 1850 on the heels of a gold rush that prompted people to seek their fortune out west. The population soared following World War II with the help of a robust defense and aerospace industry. It boomed again in the 1980s and 1990s as technology companies put Silicon Valley on the map.

But the growth slowed after the end of the Cold War in the 1990s when the federal government cut back on defense spending and again in the years before the Great Recession in the late 2000s.

State officials say California has seen more people leave than move in from other states for much of the last three decades. However, that had been offset by international immigration and births so that California continued to grow.

The state’s population has become a political issue this year in light of the effort to recall Governor Gavin Newsom, with Republicans blaming high taxes and the governor’s policies for people fleeing the state. From 2010 to 2020, about 6.1 million people left California for other states compared to about 4.9 million people who moved to California from other states, according to an analysis of census data by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The Department of Finances population estimate comes from a number of sources, including birth and death counts, the number of new driver’s licenses and address changes, school enrollments and federal tax returns.

Newsweek, in partnership with NewsGuard, is dedicated to providing accurate and verifiable vaccine and health information. With NewsGuard’s HealthGuard browser extension, users can verify if a website is a trustworthy source of health information. Visit the Newsweek VaxFacts website to learn more and to download the HealthGuard browser extension.

California COVID Ap photo
California’s average death rate increased by 19 percent in 2020 compared to the past three years, at least partially because of the coronavirus pandemic. Above, a person wearing a protective mask walks in front of the skyline on Bernal Heights Hill in San Francisco on December 7, 2020.
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

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