California has surpassed New York as the US state with the highest number of Covid-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
As of Wednesday, California has reported a total of 45,351 Covid-19 fatalities -- eclipsing New York's total of 45,312 deaths.
The grim designation comes after a catastrophic surge of new infections over the holidays in California led to a record wave of deaths that has lingered into February, even as new Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations have fallen in recent weeks. On Wednesday, state data showed a rolling daily average of nearly 500 deaths.
“This is a heart-wrenching reminder that Covid-19 is a deadly virus, and we mourn alongside every Californian who has suffered the tragic loss of a loved one during this pandemic,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Though California has the highest number of total deaths, many other states have a higher rate of deaths per capita. New Jersey has the highest rate, followed by New York, which was hit hard early in the pandemic.
California saw a surge in new cases in the fall, soaring from a total of 1 million just before Thanksgiving to more than 3 million by mid-January.
The mounting death toll in California comes despite the state’s accelerated vaccine rollout. “Deaths continue to be devastating,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday at the opening of the state’s largest mass vaccination center at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, which will administer up to 15,000 doses each day.