Press Release


Bob Young

For Release:

March 12, 2021

California Workers' Comp COVID-19 Claim Volume Plummeted in February


Oakland – The wave of COVID-19 claims that hit the California workers’ compensation system at the end of 2020 has subsided – at least for the time being – as the number of claims reported to the state Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) for February fell to the lowest level in a year and the projected ultimate claim count for February came in at 4,533 cases, down nearly 90 percent from the record 43,158 claims projected for December. 

The latest figures from the California Workers’ Compensation Institute’s COVID-19/Non-COVID-19 Interactive Application show that after surging to an all-time high in December, the monthly COVID-19 claim count fell by more than 50% in January, a decrease that coincided with the steep drop in new coronavirus cases in the state.  Claim counts from December through February are still incomplete as additional claims for those months are still being reported, but the COVID-19 claim totals reported as of March 8 show that the DWC has recorded 40,188 claims with December injury dates and 19,493 claims with January injury dates, but just 2,747 COVID-19 claims with February injury dates.  The addition of the February figure pushed the number of COVID-19 claims reported to the DWC since the pandemic began to 135,566, including 751 death claims.  COVID-19 clams have accounted for just 9.0% of all claims reported thus far for February, though they have accounted for 18.8% of all claims since the first claims were reported in January of 2020.

CWCI’s latest version of the App also allows users to compare claims data from the pandemic period of March 2020 through February 2021 to a baseline set of pre-pandemic claims from a year earlier to show how the pandemic has impacted the mix of claims by industry sector, region, age, gender, etc.  For example, comparing the California workers’ compensation claim distributions by industry between the pre- and post-pandemic periods shows that during the pre-pandemic baseline period, health care workers were involved in 11.2% of all California workers’ compensation claims overall, but a year later, with health care workers representing one third of all COVID-19 claims, their share of all work injury claims in the state jumped to 16.8%.  Looking at the effect of the pandemic on the nature of injury groups shows that during the baseline period, only 8.3% of work injuries in the state claims involved an occupational disease or cumulative injury, but with the rise of COVID-19 over the past year, that proportion more than tripled to 28.4% during the pandemic period, while claims involving specific injuries fell from 88.3% to 69.0%, and multiple injury claims fell from 3.5% to 2.6%.  

Also of note, the pandemic has had little effect on claim notification times for non-COVID cases, as the average number of days from the injury date to the employer notice, and from employer notice to the claims administrator notice showed only marginal changes from a year earlier, with the exception of March and April of 2020 – the early stages of the pandemic when it took significantly longer for workers to notify their employers of a job injury claim.  Due to required testing, notification times for COVID-19 claims have consistently been longer than those for non-COVID-19 claims, though they have continued to improve, so the gap between notification times for COVID versus non-COVID claims has narrowed.     

The latest results on California workers’ comp COVID-19 claims are from the March 11 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 current and historical data on California work injury claims. The app includes COVID-19 data dating back to January 2020, as well as from the most recent 12 months, which can be compared to non-COVID-19 claims data from a year earlier.  The app is updated biweekly and is available to the public here.