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Santa Ana, one of Orange County’s largest cities and among the hardest hit by the coronavirus, is now looking at officially honoring the more than 800 city residents who have died from the pandemic.

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“We’ve lost a lot of lives here in Santa Ana as a result of this pandemic,” Mayor Vicente Sarmiento said at this week’s City Council meeting.

Last week, Voice of OC reported about the lack of official recognition and memorials for local residents who have died from Covid as well as assistance for their families. 

This week, Sarmiento asked city staff to put together “a proper dignifying recognition…in memory of all those neighbors and friends and relatives of ours here in the city.”

“Hopefully the count of people who actually [are passing] away at this point is slowing down. But I think we’re getting to that moment where we really should pay respect to people who did lose their battle with COVID-19,” Sarmiento added.

“Here in Santa Ana, I think it’s something that we should just start thinking about how we are going to recognize that tremendous loss for our city.”

It’s not yet clear when or how such a recognition will take place. Sarmiento told Voice of OC on Friday he gave direction for city staff to start figuring that out.

As of Friday, 845 Santa Ana residents have died from coronavirus since the pandemic took hold in OC last March.

Santa Ana residents have been hit particularly hard by Covid, with deaths per capita about 70 percent higher than the average in the rest of the county.

Santa Ana residents are more than 17 percent of Covid deaths countywide, despite the having about 10 percent of the county population, according to death certificate data.

Several cities and community groups around Orange County have been working to honor those who have died from the disease, which was by far the number one cause of death in Orange County in December and January.

Irvine set up an online memorial for residents who died from Covid, while the Catholic Dioceses of Orange has been hosting a display of thousands of roses honoring those who have died from the pandemic across the county.

In contrast, the county Board of Supervisors – which oversees public health services in OC – hasn’t acknowledged Covid deaths for several months and has not expressed any public interest lately in recognizing those who have died.

Following a major surge in cases in December and January, coronavirus has declined significantly in Orange County, though the virus continues to circulate and kill local residents.

County health officials reported 8 new Covid deaths on Friday.

Covid hospitalizations declined slightly, to 100 total patients with 15 in intensive care — a decrease from the day before when there were 110 patients and 23 in ICUs — according to the county Health Care Agency. 

The virus has now killed 4,918 Orange County residents — nine times as many residents than the flu kills on a yearly average.

COVID deaths also have surpassed average yearly cancer deaths in OC. 

It’s also killed more than heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and strokes do on a yearly average, respectively.

Orange County has averaged around 20,000 deaths a year since 2016, including 543 annual flu deaths, according to state health data.

Last year, more than 24,400 OC residents died, according to the latest state health data.

According to the state death statistics, cancer kills over 4,600 people, heart disease kills over 2,800, more than 1,400 die from Alzheimer’s disease and strokes kill over 1,300 people.

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.

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