Even in 2022, L.A. COVID death rate is worse than car crashes. Here’s why

The Omicron variant coronavirus killed angelenos more often than the flu and car accidents in early 2022, according to county health officials.

An analysis of death records from January through April found that there were 31.8 deaths from COVID-19 per 100,000 residents of all ages in Los Angeles County. That’s nine times the comparable rate for road deaths and more than five times that of the flu and pneumonia over the same period, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

During that period, there were 3.5 deaths from car accidents per 100,000 people and 5.9 deaths from influenza and pneumonia per 100,000 people.

There has been much talk of Omicron causing milder disease than previous variants – although it is also likely that higher vaccination rates, anti-COVID-19 drugs and increased immunity to previous infections played a role in the severity of the recent fall and to weaken the winter wave.

While that’s true, COVID-19 continues to have deadly consequences. More than 4,800 COVID-related deaths have been recorded this year in the country’s most populous county — 25% among residents under the age of 65.

Recent mortality rate data by age group underscores Omicron’s continued strength. Between May and July, the death rate for LA County residents ages 80 and older was three times the same months in 2021. For adults ages 65 to 79, the death rate was 1½ times the year-ago rate. In contrast, mortality rates fell among younger adults.

“For some people in the community, their risk of COVID has actually not decreased over time, even though we have great tools that have resulted in dramatic reductions in mortality rates overall,” Ferrer said during a recent briefing.

There are a few possible explanations. Given the ultra-contagious nature of Omicron, mid-year transmission of the coronavirus was much more widespread and persistent than last year. A higher number of infections means additional chances that someone will become seriously ill.

The timing isn’t a perfect comparison either, with the May-July period this year covering the peak of the second Omicron wave, while last year’s delta surge started a little later in the summer.

It’s also possible that some older residents were further from their last vaccination dose this year – an important factor as protection wears off over time. In addition, the Omicron variant is more likely to cause breakthrough infections in vaccinated individuals compared to previous strains.

But even among middle-aged adults earlier this year there was a higher death toll from COVID-19 than from car accidents.

Among adults between the ages of 50 and 64, the death rate for COVID-19 was eight times the rate for car accidents and 12 times that for the flu and pneumonia, the county analysis found.

And among those in their 30s and 40s, the fatality rate for COVID-19 was more than 1.5 times that of car accidents and 21 times that of flu and pneumonia.

Among the youngest adults — aged 18 to 29 — the fatality rate for COVID-19 was higher than flu and pneumonia, but only about a fifth that of car accidents.

Another analysis found that COVID-19 stole the most years of human life through premature death in the first year of the pandemic compared to other major causes.

LA County researchers defined premature death as one that occurred before the age of 75. By that measure, COVID-19 was responsible for nearly 79,000 years of potentially lost life across the country in 2020 — almost as many as the total of liver disease, diabetes, stroke and lung cancer.

Causes of premature death also increased for other reasons. Potential years of life lost due to drug overdose increased by 65% ​​between 2019 and 2020, according to Ferrer. In fact, most of the leading causes of death have increased in 2020 compared to 2019.

While COVID-19 was undoubtedly deadly in the first year of the pandemic, disruptions to work, school, health care and social life were also likely to have an adverse effect on overall well-being, Ferrer said. COVID-19 vaccines were not widely available until 2021.

“The sobering data on COVID-19 mortality and premature deaths from COVID helps us understand why it remains important to continue taking action to contain the spread of COVID-19 and protect those most vulnerable to it serious illnesses and deaths,” she said.

LA County is hardly unique when it comes to such impacts from the coronavirus. CDC data presented last week showed that since April, COVID-19 hospitalization rates have risen far more dramatically among older people compared to younger people.

Since April 2022, hospitalization rates in older age have increased compared to other age groups.

(US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

And while immunizations have helped dramatically improve COVID-19 mortality, older people who have completed their primary immunization series can still get serious illness and die, Ferrer said. Factors that can affect the risk of death include failure to get vaccinated or keep up to date with booster shots, underlying health problems, and repeat coronavirus infections.

According to a recent report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overall life expectancy in the United States fell by an average of 1.8 years from 2019 to 2020, “primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic and increases in unintentional injuries. like drug overdose.

In the US, life expectancy fell from 78.8 to 77 years. California’s fell 1.9 years from 80.9 to 79.

New York saw the sharpest drop in life expectancy between 2019 and 2020, falling by three years from 80.7 to 77.7. The District of Columbia saw a 2.7 year reduction in life expectancy; Louisiana and New Jersey, 2.6 years; and Arizona and Mississippi, 2.5 years.

The five states with the smallest reductions in life expectancy were Hawaii, New Hampshire, Maine, Washington and Oregon. These states each had a decrease in life expectancy of less than a year between 2019 and 2020.

Of the 50 states in 2020, Hawaii had the highest life expectancy at 80.7 years and California the fourth highest. Mississippi had the lowest at 71.9 years.

On Aug. 31, health officials released preliminary estimates of life expectancy for 2021. Officials said US life expectancy for 2021 has fallen another 0.9 a year since 2020, falling to 76.1 years — the lowest recorded since 1996. State-level estimates were not available for 2021.

Among racial and ethnic groups, Native Americans experienced the largest decline in life expectancy, falling 6.6 years from 71.8 in 2019 to 65.2 in 2021. That is “the same life expectancy for the entire US population in 2019 1944,” says the report.

Latino life expectancy fell 4.2 years from 81.9 to 77.7. Black life expectancy fell four years from 74.8 to 70.8. The life expectancy of white residents fell by 2.4 years from 78.8 to 76.4 years. And the life expectancy of Asian Americans fell 2.1 years from 85.6 to 83.5.

In the reports, life expectancy was defined as a hypothetical cohort that would be subject throughout their lifetime to age-specific death rates prevailing for the population in the year analyzed. The number reflects “a snapshot of current mortality experience and shows the long-term impact of a range of age-specific mortality rates that prevailed in a given year,” the report said.

LA County’s weekly COVID-19 death toll is declining but remains elevated. In the seven days ending Thursday, the region recorded 78 deaths, well above the spring low of 24 deaths recorded May 4-10. The summer peak was 122 deaths in one week, recorded between July 31 and August 6.

LA County reported about 1,800 coronavirus cases per day in the seven days ended Thursday, a 30% week-on-week drop and a 74% drop from the summer high of nearly 6,900 cases per day.

The latest case and death rates could be somewhat artificially depressed due to a delay in reporting the Labor Day holiday.

With case and hospitalization rates declining, LA County fell to the CDC-defined low COVID-19 community level last week. The last time LA County was at this level — which “reflects minimal strain on the hospital care system,” Ferrer said — was in early May.

Other Southern California counties that slipped into the low COVID-19 community level last week included San Diego, Ventura and Santa Barbara. Riverside County entered low COVID-19 community level on August 25. Orange County entered low COVID-19 community level Thursday; San Bernardino County remains on average where it has been for weeks.

As of Thursday, there were only four California counties at the high level of the COVID-19 community — Kern, Merced, Madera and Kings — accounting for less than 4% of the state’s population.

Still, the risk of exposure to the coronavirus remains elevated in much of California. On a per capita basis, LA County was reporting 126 coronavirus cases per week per 100,000 residents as of Thursday. A rate of 100 or more is considered high.

At a briefing at a vaccination center at the Balboa Sports Complex in Encino on Thursday, Ferrer urged the public to receive their updated bivalent booster shots, which were developed not only against the original coronavirus but also against subvariants Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 nationally dominant.

“Vaccines are here,” Ferrer said. “By receiving this bivalent booster, anyone eligible can receive greatly increased protection against the current strains of the virus, providing increased protection against both serious illness and infection.”

Ferrer added, “With this new bivalent vaccine, we could reduce our chances of a third major winter surge of COVID, as we have a pretty good match with what’s out there.”

Officials continue to recommend that residents take some precautions when gathering – including testing before events, meeting outdoors when possible, maximizing ventilation by opening windows and using air filters indoors, and wearing a mask indoors when in are near people whose coronavirus status is unknown.

“We still have a highly transmissible variant that is capable of re-infecting people who are already infected. It makes sense to still be cautious and take some simple steps to reduce your risk of getting COVID or giving it to someone,” Ferrer said.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-09-09/even-in-2022-l-a-covid-death-rate-worse-than-car-crashes Even in 2022, L.A. COVID death rate is worse than car crashes. Here’s why

Alley Einstein

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