LA County saw 26% more deaths in 2020; COVID-19 was a leading cause, report says

In 2020, there were 81,083 reported deaths in Los Angeles County, marking a 26% increase, according to a new report from the Department of Public Health. COVID-19 was the second leading cause of death.

Of the additional 16,566 deaths in 2020, the coronavirus accounted for 11,101, or 67% of the reported increase from 2019 to 2020, the report states.

Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

“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,” Barbara Ferrer, director of public health, said in a statement.

Coronary heart disease, which saw a 10% increase over 2019 figures, remained the leading cause of death in 2020. The disease accounted for 12,207 deaths.

Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and diabetes capped off the top five causes of death at 4,978, 4,026 and 3,527 fatalities, respectively. Alzheimer’s had a year-over-year increase of 12%, while stroke and diabetes increased 6% and 12%.

The largest spike in deaths was unintentional drug overdoses, which grew from 1,208 in 2019 to 1,954 in 2020 for a 62% increase, according to the report. Drug overdose was the leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 44 in both 2019 and 2020.

Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

There were large racial and ethnic disparities in death rates, the report notes. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders had the highest rate at 1,324 per 100,000 residents. American Indians had the second-highest death rate at 1,138 per 100,000 residents, followed by Blacks (1,053), Latinos (725), Whites (698) and Asians (509).

White people had the lowest year-over-year increase in death rate at just 10%. By contrast, the American Indian death rate increased 63%. The death rate for Latinos, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders increased 42% and 39%, respectively. The Black and Asian death rates both increased 26%.

Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

“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,” Ferrer stated. “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.”

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Brandon Richardson is a business reporter, covering everything from real estate and healthcare to the airport and port to city hall and the economy. He is a Long Beach native who has been with the Business Journal since graduating from Long Beach City College in spring 2016 with an associate’s degree in journalism. He is an avid record collector and concert goer.