The COVID death toll is climbing at a terrifying pace

More than 1,000 fatalities tallied in a four-day period

Illustration of COVID-19 death count


On Dec. 30, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported that the region’s death toll from COVID-19 had surpassed 10,000. That came just eight days after the county had reached 9,000 deaths.


In a season of unspeakable tragedy, the pace would only quicken. The county hit 11,000 deaths six days later, on Jan. 5.


The rapid climb stands in sharp contrast to the pace recorded early in the fall. The 6,000th county COVID-19 death was reported on Sept. 5. It would be 51 days until the region surpassed 7,000.


The recent pace has not slowed. It took just four days to go from 11,000 to 12,000 deaths. On Thursday, the death toll stood at 13,234.


Rate of increase of COVID-19 fatalities in Los Angeles County

Table of Pace of COVID-19 deaths

“This is another devastating day for Los Angeles County,” Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said in the county’s prepared daily coronavirus update on Jan. 9. “The speed with which we are reaching grim milestones of COVID-19 deaths and cases is a devastating reflection of the immense spread that is occurring across the County.”


Deaths, like hospitalizations, are a lagging indicator of the coronavirus. It typically takes several weeks for someone who contracts COVID-19 to become sick enough to require hospital care. While individual cases vary, deaths often occur a week or two after that.


Begging people to stay home

The quickening of the death count has been happening for more than a month. On Dec. 11, Crosstown reported that complications from COVID-19 led to 497 deaths in the first 10 days of December, more than triple the 146 who died from Nov. 1-10.


Although the number of local hospitalizations has eased slightly—there were 7,906 people receiving care on Thursday, down from the peak of 8,098 a week before—the medical system remains overwhelmed, and public health officials and political leaders have begged the public to stay home as much as possible and avoid gathering with people outside their household.  


“All of us need to continue to do more,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said during his Jan. 7 evening briefing. “We can stretch farther. We can be more vigilant.”


Area leaders also worry that, even with the already devastating levels of hospitalizations and deaths, another surge will soon occur, propelled by people who attended parties or other gatherings around Christmas and New Year’s.


If that comes to fruition, the death toll would continue to increase rapidly. 


How we did it: We analyzed daily data provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. In some cases totals were later changed.


Interested in our data? Check out the Crosstown coronavirus interactive map or email