Cause of Spike in Homeless Deaths in LA During First Year of Pandemic Revealed

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There was a more than 50 percent spike in deaths among Los Angeles County’s homeless population during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to recently released data, which found that it was mainly driven by overdoses—not COVID-19.

Los Angeles County, which has been dominated by Democratic executives and elected officials for years, said that between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, some 1,988 overall deaths among the homeless were recorded. That’s up about 56 percent from 1,271 deaths during the same time period one year earlier, said a report from the LA Department of Public Health, dated April 22.

As a result, the county concluded that drug overdoses remained the top cause of death among homeless individuals during that timeframe. Overdose deaths also increased 78 percent “from the pre- to post-pandemic onset year,” the country wrote.

There were 402 fatal overdoses in the pre-pandemic year, the country said. That “nearly doubled” to 715 in the first year of the outbreak, LA County said.

“The findings in this report reflect a true state of emergency,” said LA County First District Supervisor Hilda L. Solis said in a statement. “In a civil society, it is unacceptable for any of us to not be profoundly disturbed by the shocking needs documented in this year’s homeless mortality report.”

Heart disease was the second leading causing of death—increasing 29 percent year-over-year—and COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death, said the report. Traffic injuries and homicide were the fourth and fifth leading causes of death, respectively, during that time period, according to officials.

“The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on people experiencing homelessness has clearly extended beyond the immediate effects of this new and deadly virus,” Los Angeles Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “The pandemic has exacerbated stressors already burdening this vulnerable population.”

By Jack Phillips

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