Hospital - Photo courtesy of Unsplash

During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the overall number of people who died in Los Angeles County increased by 26% compared to the previous year, and the virus officially ranked as the second-leading cause of death, according to a report released Tuesday.

According to the report from the county Department of Public Health, a total of 81,083 deaths were reported in the county during 2020, an increase of 16,566 over 2019. A total of 11,101 — or 67% — of those additional deaths were attributed to COVID-19.

The report determined that COVID was the second-leading cause of death in the county in 2020, trailing just behind coronary heart disease, which was responsible for 12,207 deaths that year. The deaths due to heart disease represented a 10% increase from 2019.

The other leading causes of death in the county in 2020 were Alzheimer’s disease (4,978), stroke (4,026) and diabetes (3,527), according to the report. All of those numbers represented increases from 2019, according to the county.

“The large increase in deaths over the space of only one year is unprecedented in modern times, and to a large degree reflects the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “The disparities we see are longstanding but have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic and are rooted in the inequitable social, economic, and environmental conditions, structural racism, and differential access to health-promoting resources experienced by different groups. While we continue our essential efforts to reduce risks from COVID-19, it is imperative that we recognize that these efforts are inextricably linked with other vital endeavors needed to address the underlying inequities that drive the disparate death rates seen across the county.”

The report noted that the highest mortality rate in the county during 2020 was among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, at 1,324 deaths per 100,000 population, followed by American Indians and Alaska Natives at 1,138 per 100,000; Black residents at 1,053 per 100,000; Latinx at 725 per 100,000; whites at 698 per 100,000; and Asians at 509 per 100,000.

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