When someone dies of COVID-19, a medical examiner investigates to see if any underlying conditions contributed to the person contracting or dying from the disease.
In Broward County, that responsibility falls to Dr. Craig Mallak and his colleagues at the Broward medical examiner's office.
The NBC 6 Investigators obtained data from the office for the 60 COVID deaths recorded through Monday and found the virus was the sole cause of death in only 11 (18%) of those cases.
Heart diseases, including especially those involving hardening and thickening of the arteries and high blood pressure, were listed as contributing causes in about two thirds of the deaths.
Diabetes was the second-most frequent contributing factor, cited in 30% of the COVID deaths, often in concert with heart disease. The third-most noted conditions were lung problems, in half as many cases as diabetes.
Mallak said the underlying conditions his office noted "contributed to making them more susceptible to getting the virus and more likely they will die from it compared to those who don't have (them)."
Among the 11 who have no contributing cause listed, the average age was 68, and only one was younger than 57.
Brandon Robinson, of Lauderhill, was only 34 when he died last week, primary cause of death being COVID-19.
"It's just surreal. It's a nightmare. Can't wake up," said his brother Craig. "It's no game. No joke. You got to take your health very seriously," he said through his tears.
Brandon Robinson had diabetes, which the medical examiner determined contributed to his death, the records state.
Among the heart conditions most often seen is hypertension, or high blood pressure.
"There’s a real risk for people who have high blood pressure as one of the factors that we see contributing to a higher severity of disease," said Dr. Aileen Marty of Florida International University.
Some have speculated that medications for hypertension, including ACE inhibitors, could make cells more welcoming to the virus, but Marty said there is no evidence yet to substantiate that.
"From what we see now, it's better to keep people on their ACE inhibitors and (other drugs) and maintain their pressures as correctly as possible," she said.