Between 2010 and 2019, the hottest decade on record, California’s official data from death certificates attributed 599 deaths to heat exposure.
But a Times analysis found that the true toll is probably six times higher. An examination of mortality data from this period shows that thousands more people died on extremely hot days than would have been typical during milder weather. All told, the analysis estimates that extreme heat caused about 3,900 deaths.
California’s undercount is one of the ways it overlooks the threat posed by heat waves, even as climate change delivers them more frequently, more intensely and with deadlier consequences. Other states are moving with greater urgency to confront this public health challenge that disproportionately imperils the elderly and vulnerable.
Extreme heat did not suddenly become a threat to Californians’ lives. The Times found that state leaders have ignored years of warnings from within their own agencies that heat was becoming more dangerous. Data reviewed by The Times show heat-related hospital visits increasing in some parts of California, including Los Angeles County, for at least the last 15 years.
As stark disparities emerge in vaccination rates, L.A. County officials are jump-starting efforts to improve access for people of color. Strategies include creating more vaccination sites as well as better public messaging campaigns, improving access to transportation and reserving spots at neighborhood vaccination locations before people from other parts of the county can scoop them up.
“We have a lot of work to do to fix this,” L.A. County public health director Barbara Ferrer said Tuesday at a county Board of Supervisors meeting. “However way you cut this data, it’s clear that in some of our hardest-hit communities, there are populations that are not getting vaccinated at the same rate as other groups.”
On Tuesday morning, Darby stood in line yet again, this time at a vaccination blitz in South Park aimed at administering doses to 800 seniors, particularly Blacks and Latinos, as well as healthcare workers in four days. Though there are historical and cultural issues that may make Black residents skeptical of vaccines, the biggest issue in L.A. County thus far has been access, said Councilman Curren Price, who helped plan the event.
Author(s): RUBEN VIVES, JACLYN COSGROVE AND SOUMYA KARLAMANGLA, LOS ANGELES TIMES