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Oakland – California workers’ comp COVID-19 claim volume continues to track with the state’s fluctuating COVID infection trends as the latest monthly count of COVID workers’ comp claims jumped 172% in December to the second highest level of the year as the Omicron variant spread rapidly across the state according to a California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) review of claims reported to the state Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC). CWCI’s latest projection also shows that the December total could ultimately increase to 12,438 cases once claims that are yet to be filed or still under investigation are added to the count.
The January 10 update to CWCI’s COVID-19/non-COVID-19 Interactive Claim Application, which includes data on California workers’ comp claims from comparable periods of 2019, 2020, and 2021, shows that since the pandemic was declared in March 2020 there have been 181,770 COVID claims reported to the state Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC). According to the latest results, the monthly COVID claim count fell to a 5-month low in November, then reversed course in December as the Omicron variant led to a wave of coronavirus cases throughout the state. Although additional claims with November and December injury dates are still being reported, the current count of 8,292 COVID claims for December represents a one-month increase of 172% and is already above the peak level reached in August during last summer’s Delta surge. The spike in claim volume at the end of the year pushed the total number of COVID claims reported to the DWC for 2021 to 63,034, which translates to 10.0% of all 2021 work injury and illness claims reported to the state. That was significantly better than the 118,995 COVID claims reported for 2020, prior to the availability of COVID vaccines, when COVID cases accounted for 17.9% of all California workers’ compensation claims reported to the state. With the Omicron surge at the end of 2021, however, COVID claims as a percent of all California workers’ compensation claims more than tripled from 6.6% in November to 20.5% in December – the highest percentage since January 2021.
The latest report also notes a total of 1,284 COVID death claims since the pandemic began, with 955 of those having 2020 injury dates and 329 having 2021 injury dates, so COVID death claims accounted for well over half (54.5%) of the 1,752 work-related death claims reported to the DWC for 2020 and 39.4% of the 836 death claims reported thus far for 2021. The new data also show that while COVID claims were most prevalent among health care workers in the first year of the pandemic, accounting for nearly a third (32.5%) of 2020 COVID claims, with the introduction of vaccines and increased safety procedures that percentage dropped to 22.5% in 2021. Meanwhile, public safety/government workers’ share of the COVID claims jumped from 16.7% in 2020 to 24.7% in 2021, as their share grew steadily as the year progressed, climbing from 20.7% of the COVID claims in the first quarter to 30.8% of the COVID claims in the fourth quarter. As a result, the public safety/government sector surpassed the health care to become the #1 sector for California workers’ compensation COVID claims in 2021.
The latest results on California workers’ comp COVID-19 claims are from the January 10 update to CWCI’s COVID-19/Non-COVID-19 Interactive Claim App, which integrates data from CWCI, DWC, and the Bureau of Labor and Statistics to provide information on California work injury claims from comparable periods of 2019, 2020, and 2021. The app is updated biweekly and is available to the public here. CWCI members and research subscribers also can access a detailed summary of the results in CWCI Bulletin 22-01 here.