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Public Health updates COVID-19 Death Demographic Data on Dashboard

There has been a change to demographic data information release methodology for COVID-19 Deaths in Kern.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the County had to decide how to release COVID-19 death demographic data that aligned with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) federal law and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services standards that protect the privacy of individual identifiable health information. Of the two allowable methodologies of releasing this protected health information, the County opted to use the "expert determination" method as we were unable to meet the "safe harbor" method's accumulated maximum point value to allow release. Using the "expert determination" methodology allowed Public Health to make frequent data updates if there were at least 11 deaths in each of the demographic categories including age group, underlying medical conditions, race/ethnicity, and sex. Learn more about these methodologies by visiting our website.

Public Health's last update to the COVID-19 death demographic data dashboard was Sept. 17, 2021. Since that update, and under the "expert determination" method, we have been unable to update the data due to one category not meeting the threshold of a minimum of 11 deaths since the last update. Therefore, we will be changing our method of release to the "safe harbor" method that will allow for the update of death demographic data on an annual basis regardless of the number of deaths and align with how Public Health reports demographic data on other diseases such as Valley Fever and HIV.

On Aug. 24, the detailed death demographic data was updated on the COVID-19 dashboard to include all 2,654 deaths, whereas previously we had stopped updating this data at 1,514 deaths. Below are some notable points about the newly released death demographic data:

• Ages 65+ continues to be the most affected age group, accounting for 60.6% of all deaths. This is a decrease from 64.1% on the previous update. The 65+ group is still very disproportionately affected as it only makes up 11.6% of Kern's population according to CA Department of Finance 2020 population projection and only 9.1% of reported cases.

• We are reporting deaths in the 0-17 age range for the first time. There are a total of four deaths in this category making up less than 1% of total deaths.

• The majority of deaths continue to have comorbidities. Hypertension and Diabetes are the two most common. Only 50 deaths have been reported with no comorbidities, an increase of only five deaths.

• Hispanics account for 51.6%, down from 56.3%, of COVID deaths. The CA Department of Finance population projection for 2023 has Hispanics at 56.0% of the population indicating Hispanics are nearly proportionately represented among COVID deaths. African Americans make up 5.1% of the population and have 5.7% of the deaths, an increase from 5.4%. African Americans continue to be one of the most affected groups for COVID mortality. The other category has decreased from 7.3% to 7.0%. This is still proportionate as the proportion of the population in Kern is 7.6% for the other category. Whites have seen an increase in their proportion of COVID deaths accounting for 35.7% of deaths in the updated data. This is up from 31.0% when previously reported. Whites account for 31.3% of the population indicating they are now disproportionally represented in COVID mortality.

• Males account for 60.1%, remaining close to the previous of 60.2% of deaths. Males are more affected as they only account for 50.5% of the population.

The COVID-19 dashboard http://www.kernpublichealth.com/covid-19_dashboard/ is updated every week on Thursday. All data and information will continue to be updated weekly, accept the death demographics category will be updated annually.