Photo by Kit Karzen

People with underlying health conditions have been affected by COVID-19 at a much more rapid rate than the general population, but Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials said Thursday that all members of the public should continue to take precautions because data shows everybody is susceptible to contracting the disease.

Thursday’s discussion, which featured remarks from Chief Medical Officer Jeffrey Gunzenhauser and Los Angeles County Health Area Health Officer Silvia Prieto, covered a variety of statistics related to the pandemic, but Gunzenhauser began the conversation detailing the underlying health conditions that are most prevalent in people who contract COVID.

“We know that we have mentioned many times that people with underlying health conditions are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 as well as dying from this infection,” Gunzenhauser said. “In fact, among people who have passed away, 92% have had some type of underlying health conditions.”

Diabetes and hypertension are the two most common conditions found in people who have died from COVID-19 in recent months, according to Gunzenhauser.

“Just as a point of reference, there have been about 5,500 persons who passed away from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and you can see that nearly 3,000, which is approaching 60% of them, had hypertension,” and more than 2,000 were diagnosed with diabetes, he said, mentioning both conditions are very common in the general public.

Many people think it’s really only older people who are at risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID, but the data shows this isn’t always true. “The point is: everybody is at risk,” Gunzenhauser said, before moving to speak on the COVID’s effect on hospitals, senior homes and other places of care.

“These are people that are in our communities. They go to work They’re out there shopping. They’re all around us… We have a collective responsibility to protect them. That’s really what getting through COVID is all about,” Gunzenhauser said. “So, this is why wearing cloth face coverings,” keeping six to 10 feet and staying home if you’re experiencing symptoms is important. Taking these actions not protect only yourself and others, they particularly protect those who are most at-risk — and by doing that everybody can help save lives.

“From my observation, there’s been tremendous efforts to do the things we’ve asked,” Gunzenhauser said. “My belief is those are the things that are making the difference, and we do know when those things aren’t followed (then) there are outbreaks,” and, consequently, people are hospitalized and sometimes perish.