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COVID-19 leading cause of death for Hispanic residents in Harris County last year, report says

Harris County Public Health released new data Thursday about mortality rates and the most common causes of death in the county.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — COVID-19 has been identified as the leading cause of death for Hispanic residents in the Harris County area for 2020, according to a recent report.

Harris County Public Health released new data Thursday breaking down the most common causes of death among Harris County residents. 

While coronavirus ranked as the third highest killer among all county residents in 2020, the virus accounted for 22.4 percent of Hispanic deaths, experts said. HCPH reported more than half of COVID-19 county deaths in 2020 were Hispanic residents.

As a Latino business owner, Arnaldo Richards, owner of Picos Restaurant, says he’s working to lead by example.

He says majority of his staff are Hispanic, and navigating through the pandemic has been tough, "We continue to follow the protocols. We are still taking temperatures with employees; everyone is wearing a mask.”

Richards says they’ve found ways to educate and encourage employees to stay safe, "We did incentives first it was $50 then it was $100 for them to go and get vaccinated, to take the time, perhaps lose a day of work.”

Last year was the first time COVID-19 deaths were added to the report, which tracked deaths and mortality rates in Harris County between 2016 and 2020.

Researchers said an estimated 32,741 deaths were reported during that time frame, with 3,626 COVID-19 deaths were recorded in 2020 alone. Experts said the increase is proof of the deadly impact of the pandemic.

Despite it appearing in March of 2020, analysts said COVID-19 ranked ninth for the five-year period.

Heart disease and cancer remain the deadliest chronic health conditions in Harris County, accounting collectively for 41.9 percent of all deaths during that period.

The complete list of leading causes of death from 2016 to 2020 include:

  • Heart Disease
  • Cancer
  • Accidents
  • Cerebrovascular Diseases
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Septicemia
  • COVID-19
  • Kidney Disease

RELATED: UTMB team working to determine how dangerous the omicron variant really is

Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Dr. Laura Murillo believes there's an institutional distrust of government in the community. She says the political tone for vaccinations turns Latino residents against getting a shot.

Over the last year, the city and county have hosted several outreach events in Latino communities working to build trust in the vaccine. Dr. Murillo says those efforts need to continue. 

"We’ve seen great and tremendous heavy lifting from city and county in places we already frequent and visit such as churches and community centers, we need to keep doing that, educate people about getting vaccinated."

Mortality rates higher among men than women

Taking a closer look at the data, men consistently had a higher mortality rate than women in all five years, according to the report.

Officials said men were more likely to die from heart disease, accidents, chronic lower respiratory disease, suicide, homicide and diabetes. Meanwhile, Cancer, cerebrovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, septicemia, and kidney disease are higher causes of death for women.

Harris County residents live an average of 79.9 years

Researchers found the average life expectancy for a Harris County resident in 2021 is 79.9 years.

The overall age-adjust mortality rate reportedly increased by 21.9 percent in 2020 after being stable or taking a downward trend between 2016 and 2019.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes life expectancy across the nation, including Texas, should drop by 1.5 years from 2019 to 2020 because of the coronavirus.

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