LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- COVID-19 appears to be on track to become one of the leading causes of death in Los Angeles County, compared to other diseases such as the flu and heart disease, public health officials announced Wednesday.
County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer noted she felt compelled to contextualize the number of coronavirus deaths in light of claims that the virus is "nothing to worry about," which she added is "simply not true."
Between January and June of last year, coronary heart disease was the top cause of death in the county with nearly 6,000 fatalities.
In comparison, Ferrer noted that COVID-19 has killed just over 3,400 between January and June of this year. Those figures do not account for the July numbers, which would bring the county's death toll to 4,213.
Though it's not a perfect comparison as numbers for other leading causes of deaths for this year have not been finalized, COVID-19 "appears to be on track to claim more lives in L.A. County than any disease except coronary heart disease," Ferrer noted.
She added that more people are dying from the virus than other kinds of heart disease, Alzheimer's, stroke and COPD.
When compared to deaths caused by the flu, which is "a dangerous virus in its own right," Ferrer asserted that "it's also nowhere near as deadly as COVID-19 has been to date."
From October 2019 through May 2020, 1,521 people in the county died from the influenza or pneumonia. In the first six months of 2020, COVID-19 killed twice as many people, 3,402, as the flu did over that eight-month period.
"I'd like to emphasize that unlike (the) flu, there is no vaccine for COVID-19 at this time," Ferrer said, stressing the importance of flattening the curve and slowing the spread to limit the strain on the local healthcare system once flu season begins.