SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — You might not be surprised to hear the death rate is up this year in Sacramento County, but it may come as a surprise that the increase in deaths is not due to coronavirus cases.
In the first six months of the year, the Sacramento County coroner only had one positive COVID-19 case, according to records obtained by CBS13. However, overall, the number of deaths in Sacramento County has increased by nearly 9% so far this year.
Keep in mind, the coroner’s office has jurisdiction over sudden and unexpected deaths. Most deaths related to natural causes or infectious diseases, like COVID-19, are generally tracked separately by hospitals and public health.
In January, the number of deaths investigated by the Sacramento County Coroner’s office was up more than 11% year-over-year. In February, it jumped even higher to 13%. Roughly half of those closed cases were ruled accidental deaths, including overdoses.
Then the pandemic hit, and death rates took a dive in March when the shelter-in-place order was issued, before spiking more than 21% year-over-year in April.
Since then, the death rate has stayed elevated in May and June.
But again, of the 955 deaths investigated by the coroner in the first six months of the year, only one listed COVID-19 as the cause of death.
The coroner’s office has since had a few more COVID-19 cases. The first person to test positive died on June 22nd. The rest of the positive cases were in July.
In five of those cases, COVID-19 was ruled as the cause of death. One case is still under investigation. By the end of July, the Sacramento County Department of Public Health reported 160 COVID-19 deaths.
For perspective, in 2019, the Sac County Coroner investigated 1,029 deaths between January and July. This year that number has increased to 1,125 deaths over the same period.
So what is causing the increase in non-coronavirus deaths? The answer is still not clear because about half of these cases are still open, meaning there’s no official cause of death.
We do know homicides are up and car accidents are down — CBS13 will be doing a deeper dive as more data becomes available.