AUSTIN (KXAN) — COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is now the 4-leading cause of death in Travis County, according to preliminary numbers from this year.

Austin Public Health compared COVID-19 deaths so far in 2020 to statistics from 2018. As of Aug. 20, there have been 346 COVID-19 deaths in the county, which is more than the number of people who died from the fourth-leading cause of death in 2018, strokes.

Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden characterized it as an “unfortunate milestone in our community.”

APH uses historical trends to compare the approximate numbers of deaths in 2018 with the numbers this year. Final causes of death are determined and tracked once a death certificate is filed with the APH Office of Vital Records.

The top four causes of death in the county in 2018 were:

  • Malignant Neoplasms (Cancer): 1,229
  • Heart Diseases: 1,092
  • Accidents (Unintentional Injuries): 512
  • Cerebrovascular Diseases: 337

The announcement came two days after Dr. Mark Escott said Travis County was tied for that fourth-place position.

“You know we look at that data and see that the next milestone at 512 deaths associated with accidents of all kinds is not far away,” Escott said. “We know that COVID-19 is now the 3rd leading cause of death in United States.”

The top causes of death in Texas in 2018 were heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases. Meanwhile, data from 2017 shows the top causes of death in the United States were heart disease, cancer, accidents, and chronic lower respiratory disease.

“We all must take it very seriously because if we don’t it’s going to affect all of us,” Escott said. “It’s going to affect all of our families to some extent.”