This county reports highest COVID-19 death rate in Bay Area with more than 80% in nursing homes

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The U.S. hit a grim milestone Wednesday, surpassing more than 250,000 deaths from COVID-19. Since the CDC traced the first death in Santa Clara County in early February, nearly 2,000 more lives were lost here in the Bay Area.

Click the play button on the timeline below to see the spike of deaths reported across the country since the beginning of the pandemic.


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Marin County death rate

According to ABC7's data analysis, Marin County has the highest COVID-19 death rate in the Bay Area - not including San Quentin -- followed by Alameda, Sonoma, and Lake Counties.

To put it in perspective, roughly one out of every 2,600 people have died from the virus in Marin County.


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66-year-old Gail Gaines was one of the last reported deaths.

"I love her, I miss her," said Mona Carter, Gaine's niece. "It was hard, no visiting, even as she was dying."

Carter says it was a lonely goodbye.

"She had pneumonia at first and then went into the hospital," she said. "Then COVID hit...we didn't find out until it was too late."


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Gaines spent most of her career working in long-term care facilities.

Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County's Public Health Officer, explains more than 80 percent of COVID deaths in the county were residents of long-term care facilities or nursing homes.

"The peak of pandemic was in July," said Willis. "At one point, there were eight facilities that had outbreaks at one time...many of these facilities were just not well equipped to handle the challenges of COVID."

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In the last four months, the number of new deaths in Marin County has declined since the peak in July.

"Again that peak in July was around 39 deaths, we are on track for less than 20 in the month of October," Willis said.

Sonoma County death rate

ABC7's data analysis shows behind Marin County, Alameda County has the second-highest death rate in the Bay Area. Sonoma County is narrowly close behind and had the second-highest rate until Nov. 17.

To put it in perspective, one out of roughly every 3,300 people have died from the virus in Sonoma County.


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"We have been serving many more families recently where their loved one has died due to COVID," said funeral home director, Wes Daniels.

ABC7's analysis shows close to 20 percent of the deaths reported are in Santa Rosa, where the rate of transmission is flagged as 'active and spreading.'

"We know it's just going to get more difficult before it gets better," said Daniels, who owns Daniels Chapel of the Roses.

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Daniels explained he's been serving entire families who've been infected with the virus, including their loved one that passed away. He says it's caused a delay in burial and cremation services.

"While it's been a challenge, we feel it's important," he said. "We are keeping their loved one for an extended period of time, waiting for them to quarantine, so they can spend time with their loved one before a burial or a cremation."

Especially important now as families grieving may not be able to say goodbye in person, like Carter.

"She was off and on the breathing treatment...then that was it...it happened so fast."

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