Coronavirus test tube samples

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health conducts Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19 on March 19, 2020.

Warning that people of all ages with existing health conditions are especially susceptible to severe illness or death if they contract COVID-19, Los Angeles County's chief medical officer said today high blood pressure and diabetes were the most common underlying ailments in coronavirus patients who have died.

"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.

Roughly 92% of people who have died in the 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. "Again, these are people that are in our communities. They go to work. They are out for shopping. They're all around us. It may be any of us. We have a collective responsibility to protect them. That's really what getting through COVID is all about."

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% 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%, 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 the 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."

UPDATE: The county reported another 57 deaths due to the virus today, while Long Beach reported one additional fatality. The new deaths lifted the countywide total since the start of the pandemic to 5,447.

The county announced 1,603 new cases, while Long Beach added 52 and Pasadena reported six. The countywide cumulative total stood at 227,404.

A total of 1,378 people were hospitalized due to COVID-19 on today, the same number as Wednesday. The number of hospitalizations has been trending downward in recent weeks, though health officials said the decline has leveled off in recent days. But the number is still well below the roughly 2,200 hospital patients seen in mid-July.

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