If the crisis continues at its current clip, coronavirus is on track to become the second leading cause of death in Los Angeles County for 2020, public health officials said Wednesday.
So far, 4,213 Angelinos have died of the infection in only about six months.
That makes it likely second only to heart disease for the leading cause of death in the county where about 6,000 people died of cardiac problems in the first six months of 2019, according to County Public Health Director Dr Barbara Ferrer.
The seven-day average for daily coronavirus fatalities in LA county has turned downward since the first week of July, but Ferrer urged residents to stay vigilant and not interpret that pattern with too much optimism.
Coronavirus is on track to be the second leading cause of death in Los Angeles, following only heart disease, as it has already killed more than 4,000 people in the county – more than stroke or COPD killed in an entire year in 2017
She warned that claims that the declining death tolls mean coronavirus is ‘nothing to worry about’ are ‘simply not true,’ ABC7 reported.
Meanwhile, California as a whole has now surpassed New York for the greatest number of coronavirus cases, despite seeming to have gotten its outbreak under control earlier this year.
By the end of June, coronavirus had killed more than 3,400 people in Los Angeles County since January.
That puts it well ahead of other causes of death in the county, excepting heart disease.
The county health department’s most recent complete mortality data is for 2017.
If coronavirus had struck the US that year, it would, by June, have killed more people than the next two leading causes of death – stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – combined.
Coronavirus has often been compared to the flu – particularly by President Trump, who earlier this year insisted that coronavirus was no worse and less deadly than the flu (he’s since changed his tune) – but Los Angeles death data undermines that association.
Cases are surging once more in California and, although the number of daily deaths has declined in recent weeks, LA county health officials warned COVID-19 fatalities could still rise
Flu is ‘a dangerous virus in its own right,’ said Dr Ferrer.
‘It’s also nowhere near as deadly as COVID-19 has been to date.’
In 2017, pneumonia and flu-like illnesses killed 2,171 people in the Los Angeles area, according to county data.
Already, in the first half of 2020, coronavirus has killed more than twice that many people there.
‘I’d like to emphasize that unlike (the) flu, there is no vaccine for COVID-19 at this time,’ Dr Ferrer added.
The Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed aims to have a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine by December – but many expert believe scientists will be hard-pressed to have a shot ready to distribute five months from now.
Dr Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said on Thursday that his agency is gearing up for a ‘flurry’ of rigorous, expedited studies to find a treatment for coronavirus.
California has now surpassed New York for the greatest number of coronavirus cases in the US
But, for now, only the antiviral remdesivir and the steroid dexamethasone have shown reliable evidence of reducing the duration of illness and likelihood of death form coronavirus, and each drug is far from curative.
With no cure, no vaccine, few treatments and hopes that warm weather would bat back the virus dashed, the COVID-19 death toll will only continue to mount.
If that’s the case, coronavirus will climb the ranks of leading causes of death nationwide just as it has in Los Angeles County.
As of Thursday afternoon, coronavirus has sickened nearly four million Americans and killed nearly 144,000.
That’s more people than died of Alzheimer’s in 2017 (the most recent year for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have complete data), and rivals that year’s death tolls from stroke or chronic respiratory disease.