COVID-19 passes heart disease to become L.A. County’s top killer

Pallbearers carry a casket.
The casket of a COVID-19 victim is carried out after a funeral in Los Angeles in July.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

COVID-19 has become the leading cause of death in Los Angeles County, with the past year’s total double that of the previous leading cause of death.

Before the pandemic, coronary heart disease was the leading cause of death in L.A. County, causing nearly 11,000 deaths over the last year. That has been eclipsed over the more than 22,000 deaths caused by COVID-19 since the first COVID-19 death was publicly reported one year ago in L.A. County.

“There’s been tremendous tragedy and suffering here, and across the world. And to all who are mourning, we are with you in your sorrow,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.


Other analyses have also suggested that COVID-19 has become the top, or one of the highest, leading causes of deaths in the nation.

A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis published last month concluded that COVID-19 had become the leading cause of death nationally. More than 3,000 COVID-19 deaths daily were reported nationwide in January; the former leading cause of death nationwide, heart disease, typically leads to the death of about 2,000 Americans a day, and cancer, 1,600 deaths a day.

A viewpoint article in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. in December came to a similar conclusion when commenting about the nation’s autumn and winter surge. “This infectious disease has become deadlier than heart disease and cancer,” the article said.

“The failure of the public and its leaders to take adequate steps to prevent viral transmission has made the nation more vulnerable, allowing COVID-19 to become the leading cause of death in the United States, particularly among those aged 35 years or older. Much of this escalation was preventable,” said the article, written by scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University.