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COVID-19 was the leading cause of death in Los Angeles County during the past two years, surpassing coronary heart disease, according to an announcement from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Thursday.
Between March 2020 and December 2021, Los Angeles County recorded 24,947 COVID-19 deaths. During that same time, 21,513 residents died from coronary heart disease, which is historically the leading cause of death across the country. In addition, 3,422 people died from pneumonia and the flu during that time.
Although the latest surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant is subsiding, older and unvaccinated people continue to face high risks of severe illness, hospitalization and death, the health department said.
“Unfortunately, despite the availability of vaccines and the dominance of Omicron, which generally causes less severe disease than prior variants, COVID-19 deaths continue to far outstrip deaths due to other respiratory illness,” the announcement said.
Before the pandemic, coronary heart disease deaths regularly doubled any other cause of death in the county, according to Deadline. In 2017, for instance, coronary heart disease accounted for more than 11,000 deaths, followed by Alzheimer’s disease with 4,100 deaths. Pneumonia and the flu made up about 2,000 deaths.
About 82% of eligible Los Angeles County residents have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, according to the latest data from the health department. About 73% are fully vaccinated, and 34% have received a booster shot.
Children between ages 5-11 have the lowest vaccination rates, with 32% having received one dose and 23% fully vaccinated. During January, ages 5-11 represented 15% of all COVID-19 cases in the county despite making up 9% of the population.
“Children do get infected with COVID-19,” Barbara Ferrer, the public health director, said during a news briefing on Thursday.
Ferrer pointed to a recent analysis that found Americans are dying from COVID-19 at double the rate of the U.K. and four times the rate of Germany, with low vaccination rates cited as the most likely reason.
“These local and national findings are important reminders that COVID has led to inconceivable illness and death,” she said. “Increasing vaccination and booster rates offers the best hope for reducing the most tragic outcome from COVID infection.”
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Press Release: “COVID-19 is the Leading Cause of Death Across LA County with Older and Unvaccinated Residents Still at Risk of Severe Illness.”