Local death count up 12% last year

More than 67,000 people died in Los Angeles County in 2020, with at least 10,500 from COVID-19

Illustration of COVID-19 death count


Last year, as COVID-19 arrived, deaths in Los Angeles County increased by 12% over the level in 2019. According to data from the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, there were 67,546 deaths, up from 60,507 the year before.


Mike Sanchez, a spokesperson for the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, said last year’s numbers are preliminary, and will likely increase given that the recording staff has been backlogged due to delays caused by the coronavirus. 


The 2020 count marks a spike after three years of consistent numbers; in 2018 a total of 60,774 county residents died, and in 2017 the death toll was 60,796 people, according to the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. The 2016 tally was far lower, with 45,300 deaths. 


Number of annual deaths in Los Angeles County, 2016-2020

Chart with LA County deaths counts 2016-2020


There were 10,552 Angelenos who passed away last year due to complications from COVID-19, according to data released by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Jan. 1. That accounts for nearly 16% of all deaths in 2020. 


The COVID death toll has rocketed upwards since then, following the winter surge. On Monday, March 1, the number of fallen stood at 21,467, meaning that almost 11,000 people have already died this year as a result of the virus.


A breakdown of causes of death was not available, though some believe that certain categories may have decreased; the decline in driving, for instance, could have led to fewer people dying in auto accidents. However, Paul Simon, chief science officer for the County Department of Public Health, told the Los Angeles Daily News last June that there may have been other impacts leading to deaths, such as people with serious medical conditions like heart disease avoiding care because of fear of contracting the virus. 


One alarming local rise has been among people experiencing homelessness. Last year 1,383 people experiencing homelessness died in the county, up from 1,267 in 2019. 


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading causes of death in 2019 in the United States were heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, kidney disease, the flu and suicide.


By last July, local health officials were already predicting that COVID-19 would emerge as the second leading cause of death in Los Angeles County, following heart disease.


A spokesperson for the County Department of Public Health said that in recent years the age-adjusted mortality rate for deaths from all causes had been steadily decreasing in the county, but there will be a reversal of the trend for 2020 due to COVID-19. 


How we did it: We examined data from the LA County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. For neighborhood boundaries, we rely on the borders defined by the Los Angeles Times. Learn more about our data here.


Want to know how your neighborhood fares? Or simply just interested in our data? Email us at askus@xtown.la.