California COVID-related deaths research & policy briefs

What can we learn about the pandemic by studying who died in California in 2020 and 2021, compared with prior years?

Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics researchers have been actively studying the California death certificates from 2020 and 2021, compared with prior years, to understand more about the burden of COVID-19 and other causes of death across the state, the disproportionate burden in specific communities, and the impact of public health and policy interventions since March 2020.

This research offers significant insights not otherwise available:

  • Using death data avoids undercounting the impact of COVID-19 in groups that have not received adequate testing;
  • Comparing 2020 deaths to those in previous years allows the researchers to show in detail who in California has been hardest hit by COVID-19 and other health threats and where the burden has been greatest;
  • Modeling the impact of policy choices related to shelter-in-place, vaccine distribution, and other public health and policy interventions;
  • Exploring trends in non-COVID causes of death during the pandemic.

The team has also put together policy briefs to translate their findings for a policy-oriented audience.


Excess death among Latino people in California during the COVID-19 pandemic
Alicia R. Riley, Yea-Hung Chen, Ellicott C. Matthay, M. Maria Glymour, Jacqueline M. Torres, Alicia Fernandez, Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo

Excess Deaths During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Implications for US Death Investigation Systems

Stokes AC,  Lundberg DJ, Bor J, Bibbins-Domingo K.

Am J Public Health. 2021 Jul.

DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2021.306331


Excess mortality associated with the COVID-19 pandemic among Californians 18–65 years of age, by occupational sector and occupation: March through November 2020.
Yea-Hung Chen, Maria Glymour, Alicia Riley, John Balmes, Kate Duchowny, Robert Harrison, Ellicott Matthay, Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo.

Excess Mortality in California During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic, March to August 2020.
Chen Y, Glymour MM, Catalano R, et al.
JAMA Intern Med. Published online December 21, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.7578

Policy Briefs

Place-based vaccine distribution [PDF]

COVID-19 Deaths by Age and Demographics [PDF]


Maria Glymour, ScD, MS