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San Diego County Updates Official Death Toll For April

Ty Figuero, center, a nurse in the Urgent Care at Sharp Rees-Stealy Rancho Bernardo screens a patient with COVID-19 symptoms in a tent set up outside of the hospital, April 14, 2020.
Zoë Meyers
Ty Figuero, center, a nurse in the Urgent Care at Sharp Rees-Stealy Rancho Bernardo screens a patient with COVID-19 symptoms in a tent set up outside of the hospital, April 14, 2020.

The San Diego County Assessor and Recorder has added to the region's death toll for April, showing an increase in deaths likely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

There were 2,086 deaths in San Diego County in April — a 12.7% increase from April 2019.

The new numbers mean total deaths in San Diego County from January to April this year increased by 3.4 percent from the same time period in 2019.

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But the number of deaths in early months of this year did not increase significantly from 2019, suggesting the virus was not widely circulating early in the year. In January, deaths went up by about 3% from January 2019; in February they went up less than 1%; and in March they actually went down by 2.3%.

RELATED: Latest Coronavirus Death Toll Shows A Surge In South San Diego County

Earlier this month, the county’s records showed a decrease in deaths this April compared to April 2019. Jordan Marks, a taxpayer advocate with the Assessor and Recorder’s office, said the change was due to delays in recording death certificates.

Even with the updated numbers, the increase in San Diego County deaths during the first four months of the year was much smaller than in other places that at various times have been seen as coronavirus hot spots.

In Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Michigan, total death counts were on average 50 percent higher than normal levels for the period, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. In New York City, the number of deaths was three to six times higher.

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But we shouldn’t jump to any firm conclusions based on these numbers, said Eyal Oren, an epidemiologist at San Diego State University. Comparing deaths between San Diego County and other areas is not "comparing apples to apples," he said.

"There's a lot of variation," Oren said. "How long it takes a death certificate to be completed, what's the cause of death, what's the delay in reporting and calculating deaths especially among people recently testing positive or recently infected."