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A Grim Milestone: More Than 25K In LA County Have Died Because Of COVID

Four people walk past a cemetery's grave markers with their backs to the camera. The graveyard has tall trees and grass.
Mario Frausto (C) departs the burial for his husband Terrance Sheppard, who died due to complications from COVID-19, on April 7, 2021 in Santa Monica. On Aug. 19, L.A. County officials announced more than 25,000 people in the county have died of COVID since the start of the pandemic.
(Mario Tama
Getty Images)
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More than 25,000 people have now died because of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County since the pandemic began. The grim milestone was reported Thursday by county health officials.

That makes COVID-19 one of the leading causes of death in the county.

To put that in context, L.A. County health director Barbara Ferrer said between 1,000 and 1,900 people die each year from the flu.

“So when you think that over 18 months we've lost 25,000 people, it's staggering and deeply upsetting,” Ferrer said. “Almost nobody ought to be dying of COVID anymore, so let's get people vaccinated as quickly as possible.”

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A two column spreadsheet shows the current status of deaths reported today and in total, as well as other key indicators like case rate and people tested.
(Courtesy L.A. County Public Health)

Transmission of the virus remains high, with 204 new cases per 100,00 residents. That’s about 5% higher than last week. The rate of increase is actually declining though, signaling a potential plateau. Still, keep in mind that health officials are reporting between 3,000 and 3,500 new cases daily.

And even with the recent small decline, overall cases increased between July 11 and August 11 by about 150%.

A line chart shows changes over time in the average daily cases, confirmed hospitalizations and average deaths. There are peaks at around the New Year and another rise in July.
(Courtesy L.A. County Public Health)

Of recent cases, 30% are among the vaccinated, and 13% of recent hospitalizations are vaccinated people.

A large green box with a tiny purple square in the lower left corner indicates the proportion of full vaccinated people who have tested positive for COVID and the even smaller percentage to be hospitalized and/or die.
(Courtesy L.A. County Public Health)
A timeline chart lists the percentage of fully vaccinated people who have been COVID positive and hospitalized from April through July.
(Courtesy L.A. County Public Health)

“People who are fully vaccinated are going to, in fact, come in contact more often with the virus, because there's more virus circulating. So this is to be expected,” Ferrer said.

The chasm between vaccinated and unvaccinated Angelenos is growing. Unvaccinated Black residents have the highest case rate in the county, followed by unvaccinated white and Latino residents.

Younger people still account for the most cases.The highest rates are among unvaccinated or partially vaccinated adults between the ages of 18 and 49. More unvaccinated people in that age group are dying, with a five-fold increase since last week, Ferrer said.

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“Younger unvaccinated individuals are likely to be at significant risk because they're often intermingling with many others at their jobs, and in their social lives,” Ferrer said.

Who Is At Greatest Risk?

The risk of death from COVID goes up with age. Data show that adults over 50 who are unvaccinated are 17 times more likely to die as a result of COVID than their vaccinated counterparts.

The number of people needing to be admitted to a hospital is rising along with cases, though about a quarter of people who test positive with COVID were identified through routine testing and not because they suspected they had COVID.

“In other words, they went to the hospital for some other reason,” Ferrer said.

One important note from the news conference on Thursday: Expect a big jump on Friday in total case numbers reported. More than 10,000 cases will be added because Ferrer said they will now include people who have repeatedly tested positive more than 90 days after their initial infection. Those cases will now be counted as new.

There is one bright spot. As the school year started health officials reported a large increase in vaccinations among teenagers.

“This is definitely a step in the right direction,” Ferrer said. “However, we have a long way to go.”

What questions do you have about the pandemic and health care?
Jackie Fortiér helps Southern Californians understand the pandemic by identifying what's working and what's not in our health response.

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