LOS ANGELES, CA — Details on preexisting health conditions of Riverside County's coronavirus-related deaths have not been released, but Los Angeles County's chief medical officer said this week that high blood pressure and diabetes are the most common underlying ailments in coronavirus patients who have died in his county.
"About 5,500 persons have passed away from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and you can see that nearly 3,000 ... had hypertension and over 2,000 — a big proportion of the deaths — had diabetes," Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser said in an online briefing Thursday.
Roughly 92 percent of people who have died in the Los Angeles County from COVID-19 had some type of underlying health condition. In addition to hypertension and diabetes, other common conditions included cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, chronic renal disease, obesity, asthma and liver disease. Gunzenhauser noted that some people who died from the virus had more than one underlying condition.
"When you think about these diseases, you should realize these are very common," Gunzenhauser said. "Hypertension is extremely common in the elderly, and the majority of persons over 65 may have that condition. There could be over 10 percent of adults in county with diabetes. Obesity is very common, etc."
Gunzenhauser noted that while most people who died from COVID-19 and had an underlying condition were over age 65, nearly one-fourth of them were aged 41-64 and about 3 percent were between 18 and 40.
"People may look at the percentages and think they're not at risk, but when you realize the millions of people in Los Angeles County that are in these age groups, even a small percent, like 3 or 5 percent, represents an awful lot of people," he said. "The point is everyone is at risk."
Gunzenhauser reiterated recent optimism about the downward trend in key coronavirus-tracking figures in Los Angeles County.
"The number of hospitalizations, the number of deaths and the positivity rate have been on the decline recently, which is really good news, and we are very hopeful that those positive trends will continue in the future," he said.
Los Angeles County public health director Barbara Ferrer on Wednesday said the virus continues to have a disproportionately high impact on Latinx, Black and Native Hawaiian-Pacific Islander residents, and also among lower-income residents. But she said recent numbers show that some progress is being made in closing the gap among ethnic groups, both in terms of new cases and deaths.
"We do have a long way to go, as you've seen, to reduce and eliminate the gaps that we've seen in COVID-19 health outcomes. But as I've noted, we've started to see some progress," Ferrer said. "... I do think that testing and access to testing is one of the areas that I would estimate at this point has some responsibility for narrowing the gap because it allows people to be identified early on as being positive and they're able to isolate and their close contacts are able to quarantine, which reduces community transmission as well as then further reduces transmission that may happen at workplaces."
In Riverside County, COVID-19 has also had a disproportionately high impact on Hispanic/Latinx residents, who make up nearly half of the county's 922 coronavirus deaths.