A Grim Illustration of the Toll of the Pandemic

News from California.

Via the LAT is news of Another new coronavirus variant found across California, including L.A. County.

Researchers have identified the strain in a dozen counties and have linked it to several large outbreaks in Santa Clara County. The California Department of Public Health said it’s not yet clear whether the variant is highly contagious or is just being identified frequently as lab work becomes more sophisticated.

Santa Clara County laboratories studying changes in the virus’ genome sequence found the strain in samples from community testing sites and from outbreaks where “very high numbers of people exposed contracted the virus,” officials said.

“This virus continues to mutate and adapt, and we cannot let down our guard,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County health officer and director of the Public Health Department, in a prepared statement.

This is not the UK strain that has been in the news. The story noted concern about this new strain (such as whether it would lessen vaccine efficacy or not), but offers little definitive reporting.

Within the story is this grim policy move:

So many people have died in Los Angeles County that officials have temporarily suspended air-quality regulations that limit the number of cremations. Health officials and the L.A. County coroner requested the change because the current death rate is “more than double that of pre-pandemic years, leading to hospitals, funeral homes and crematoriums exceeding capacity, without the ability to process the backlog,” the South Coast Air Quality Management District said Sunday.

The piece notes some modest improvements overall:

In at least one glimmer of hope, the number of people in L.A. County hospitalized with COVID-19 fell this week, from 7,910 on Monday to 7,498 on Sunday, down from a peak of slightly over 8,000, health officials said. About 23% of hospitalized patients are in intensive care.

The share of people who took a coronavirus test and received a positive result has also fallen slightly, from 16.5% on Monday to 14%. Officials say that dip could be a sign that infections are starting to fall after a post-holiday surge.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    If the virus is clever it will evolve to be more contagious and less deadly. Maybe. Eventually.

    Los Angeles County that officials have temporarily suspended air-quality regulations that limit the number of cremations.

    Great. Not enough to be breathing burned trees, now I’m breathing burned people.

    OTOH, it’s 64 degrees at 9:00 AM, and will hit 79F this afternoon, with crystal blue skies. Just a few plumes of cremation smoke.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    It is by far the leading cause of death in this country. Here’s a quote from a month ago, and it has gotten significantly worse since then.

    death rates for the two leading causes — heart disease and cancer — are about 1,700 and 1,600 per day, respectively. COVID-19 deaths have surpassed these numbers individually throughout December and, on Wednesday, beat them combined

    Remember how in February and March the Republicans blathered on about how this was no worse from the flu? How many people do you know who have died of heart disease of cancer? And how many do you know that have died of the flu? I have dozens in the first two categories, maybe hundreds if I count close relations of friends and co-workers, spread over many years, and zero in the flu bucket. If I include those close relations of friends, I already know of 8-10 people who have died of Covid and have two relatives that, while they survived, are probably in bad enough shape they may not last much longer.

    Did Republicans change anything when they were proved so catastrophically wrong? Not a bit. So that’s why I say that electing a Republican is an active harm to the health and safety of this country. And if you are going to locate a business in the US, avoid Republican controlled areas – they can’t be trusted with even the most elemental public health challenges.

  3. steve says:

    “If the virus is clever it will evolve to be more contagious and less deadly.”

    If the virus is actually clever we are all f*cked! (Sorry, doctor humor.)


  4. Kathy says:

    I think my pandemic fatigue is that I’m tired of trying to understand why so many people take so many stupid risks, and refuse to take even simple precautions to either avoid catching COVID or spreading it.

  5. Sleeping Dog says:


    Agreed. I’m past the point where I’m willing to engage with others about masks, social distancing etc, etc. If they are willing to risk catching the virus and possibly dying to make an insipid statement about their FREEDUMB, go for it. I’ll just do what I can to protect myself.

  6. reid says:

    Yes, Republicans, please show us the year in which the flu was killing 4,000 people every day.

    So tiring dealing with people who can’t absorb data and change their minds. On this and many other issues.

  7. Nightcrawler says:


    if you are going to locate a business in the US, avoid Republican controlled areas – they can’t be trusted with even the most elemental public health challenges.

    Austin, Texas, is an up-and-coming tech magnet. You couldn’t pay me enough to live there. I got out of a red state just in time, and I will die in this unremarkable little row house in Delaware before I live in one again.

  8. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    If the virus is clever it will evolve to be more contagious and less deadly. Maybe. Eventually.

    The virus isn’t clever. It only knows how to do one thing, get copies made of it’s DNA. Sometimes defective copies. It’s evolution, baby, that thing Republicans don’t understand and claim doesn’t happen. I would guess the virus will evolve both ways. Then the more deadly strains may die out. But gawd knows in what timeframe.

  9. Dutchgirl says:

    Reading through the NYT article “Biden’s Covid-19 Plan Is Maddeningly Obvious” I think Biden’s approach is more or less obvious, correct, and actions that should have been taken months ago. I do not agree with Michael Reynolds that vaccine roll out should go mostly through drugstore outlets. This should have a wide federal response. While drugstores do have good supply chains and access for most people, there are too many gaps and I’m concerned about how private companies would manage their liability if most of the vaccine is distributed through their networks. My $0.02.

  10. Gustopher says:


    Yes, Republicans, please show us the year in which the flu was killing 4,000 people every day.

    So tiring dealing with people who can’t absorb data and change their minds. On this and many other issues.

    I can understand people not understanding exponential growth. I can’t understand people thinking 4,000 dead per day is fine. Somewhere along the way a lightbulb should have gone off in their head.

    Even this should raise some alarms in people:
    Time to go from 200,000 dead to 300,000: 12 weeks
    Time to go from 300,000 to 400,000: 5 weeks

    But I’m not sure many people know that happened because of everything else in the news.

    (On the other hand, if you assume a normal amount of time between major news stories, the growth rate of the virus is much lower…)

  11. reid says:

    @Gustopher: I understand your point, but I don’t think the math matters. If it’s in opposition to their tribal notions, then it’s immediately blocked and must be attacked. I only have a few personal examples of dealing with people like this online, and it was six months ago, but they are immune to new facts. Change the subject, spin, state propaganda and talking points…. Very frustrating.

  12. Kathy says:

    I was thinking about misinformation regarding the trump pandemic, and I recalled something that occurred in late March or early April last year, when we still called SARS-CoV-2 the new or novel coronavirus.

    The name is important. One coworker showed me a video of someone holding a can of Lysol, zooming into some of the copy printed on the can. It claimed to eliminate 99.some% of germs, and listed a few specific germs, including “coronavirus.”

    So, as one can see, the video claimed, this ins’t a new virus, but some kind of attempt at deception.

    Well, I knew “coronavirus” wasn’t the term for a specific virus, but rather a family of similar viruses, among which some variants produce the common cold. Come, the spiky ball graphic has often been use din the part to illustrate a generic virus. I didn’t know before the pandemic that SARS and MERS were coronavirus variants, but I learned of them around that time.

    But what if I hadn’t know that?

    Well, knowing me I’d have googled “coronavirus” and seen what popped up. I do know viruses come in families.

    Again, what if I hadn’t known that?

    Well, then, I’m afraid I’d be someone else. I’ve made a habit out of examining claims that seem to contradict the prevailing scientific consensus.

    So what prevents others with less knowledge and less rigorous skeptical habits from falling for misinformation or outright conspiracy theories?

    I suppose trust int eh established authorities. But that’s one reason I expound on the virus, the way it infects others, the need for masks, the vaccines, etc. So people will also know these things.

  13. Gustopher says:

    @reid: That’s more people who won’t absorb new data and change their minds, though, rather than those that can’t.

    I find that far more are in the can’t camp rather than the won’t camp. They’ll get a glimmer, but the jump to understanding is pretty big. They are also very susceptible to someone with a degree of authority telling them that the “common sense” version is true.

    I’d hazard the guess that far more of the folks living in rural areas are like this with covid than willfully ignoring reality because of politics. And I think that the daily crisis of democracy means there isn’t reporting on covid, and unless it kills someone in their family they don’t understand how widespread it is.

    I am hopeful that the Biden administration will manage to have a big effect just by presenting a single, realistic message. Also, when hospitals are full, Fox will helpfully call that a failure of the Biden administration, and 4,000 dead a day will suddenly be a crisis — 1,000 Benghazi’s a day, blood on Biden’s hands, let’s impeach! And, disgusting though it will be, it may save lives.

  14. reid says:

    @Gustopher: Yes, I suppose I do mean “won’t”, though there’s a fine line there. It’s “can’t” in the sense that they’ve been brainwashed into being unable to accept truth and facts.

    It’s going to be difficult for Biden’s team to fix. The damage has already been done in terms of politicizing it. Lot of fixing to be done….

  15. de stijl says:


    I think it was the point you were making, but viruses cannot be clever.

    They flood the zone if unchecked. Any mutation is randomly good, bad or neutral as to sustainability. Mutations are not directed and have no ethics.

    Mutations that survive are not directed by drugs, but there is an interaction the drug dodging variants become predominant because they are not killed and thus become the new norm – See MRSA.