Compared to other types of workers’ compensation claims (i.e., medical-only, temporary disability, permanent disability), job-related deaths are relative rare in California. DWC reports that in AY 2019, there were 748 work- related death claims out of 687,912 work injury claims recorded by the WCIS, so death claims comprised 0.109% of all California claims (one out of every 917 claims) in the year prior to the pandemic.
However, the number of California workers’ compensation death claims more than doubled last year as the pandemic resulted in 866 COVID death claims, bringing the total number of job-related death claims for the year to 1,563, up from 748 in 2019 according to a new California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) analysis. The analysis also found that despite a sharp drop in work-related COVID cases from January through June of this year, an additional 166 COVID death claims were reported for the first half of 2021, for a total of 1,032 COVID death claims in the first 18 months of the pandemic.
CWCI’s review of California workers’ compensation COVID-19 death claim trends and characteristics uses data on COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 claims with January 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021 dates of injury that were reported to the state Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) as of July 26. The study encompassed all 148,222 COVID-19 claims for the 18-month study period (including the 1,032 COVID death claims) and 899 non-COVID death claims reported for the same period. Among the findings:
– – COVID surpassed transportation incidents as the leading cause of job-related deaths claimed in California, as the 1,032 COVID death claims reported for the first 18 months of the pandemic represented 53% of all death claims reported in the state for that period.
– – Since the pandemic began, death claims have been more than 6 times as prevalent among COVID claims than non-COVID claims. For the 18-month period ending in June there were 6.96 death claims per 1,000 COVID claims compared to 1.12 death claims per 1,000 non-COVID claims.
– – A quarter of all COVID claims have involved workers over age 50, but this age group accounted for 72% of the COVID death claims. In contrast, workers between the ages of 30 and 49 accounted for 48% of all COVID claims, but only 20% of the COVID death claims.
– – Females accounted for 26% of the COVID death claims, which is well below their 46% share of the state’s work force and their 48% share of all COVID claims, but well above their 15% share of non-COVID death claims, likely due to the high concentration of females in the health care sector, especially in jobs requiring direct patient contact, which were especially hard hit by the coronavirus last year.
– – The health care sector has suffered the heaviest toll during the pandemic, accounting for 30% of all COVID claims and 21% of COVID death claims over the 18-month study period. A closer look, however, reveals that after vaccines became widely available, the health care sector’s share fell from one out of three COVID claims last year to one out of five COVID claims from February through June of this year.
– – Public safety/government workers share of the COVID claims increased from 17% last year to 22% for the 5-month period that began in February, the same month that this sector overtook health care in terms of monthly COVID claim volume. Since February, retail and transportation workers’ share of the COVID claims are each up by 3 percentage points while manufacturing workers’ share is up by 2 percentage points.
– – Regional data show Los Angeles County accounted for 26% of the state’s jobs, 28% of all COVID claims, and 25% of non-COVID death claims during the study period, but 38% of the COVID death claims.
CWCI’s review of California workers’ compensation death claims has been released as a Spotlight Report.