The death toll from coronavirus rose to 11 Tuesday in Los Angeles County, while the overall number of cases reached nearly 670.
One of three newly announced deaths involved a person under age 18 from the Lancaster area, according to Dr. Barbara Ferrer, head of the county Department of Public Health. The person is believed to be the first juvenile in the country to die from the illness.
Ferrer called the case “a devastating reminder that COVID-19 affects people of all ages.”
No other details about the patient were released. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the person was a teenager.
“To the young people that are out there — this can hit you too,” Garcetti said. “Know that your behavior can save a life and can take a life, and that life could be yours.”
The other two people who died were between 50 and 70 years old. One of them lived in the West Adams area and had underlying health conditions. Health officials were still investigating where the other person lived.
Ferrer also reported 128 new cases in the county, bringing the overall number to 662. In Long Beach, which maintains its own public health agency, officials reported an additional seven cases Tuesday morning, bringing that city’s total to 28, and raising the overall county total to 669.
Among the 28 Long Beach cases is one student at Cal State Long Beach. University officials said Tuesday that two CSULB students have tested positive, but the second student is not a Long Beach resident and thus was not included in the city’s figures.
Pasadena, which also has its own health department, has reported a total of six cases, which are included in the county’s overall total.
Statewide, there are 2,102 cases, with 40 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Ferrer said that of the coronavirus cases in the county, 42% are in people aged 18-40, while 39% involve people aged 41-65. As of Monday, more than 5,700 people have been tested in the county, with about 10% coming back positive.
She has repeatedly stressed that the number of cases in the county is likely to continue rising due to the increasing availability of testing. But she said people who are tested should assume they are positive and immediately isolate themselves and notify their close contacts so those people can also go into quarantine.
“Social distancing is one very important tool that we use, but the second tool that we need to ask for your cooperation on is adhering to isolation and quarantine orders,” she said. “Isolation is required by law for anyone positive for COVID-19 or whose clinician has told them they’re likely to be positive.”
She said it can take several days for people to get their test results, and patients should assume they are positive while they’re waiting for those results.
Health officials have insisted since the outbreak began that while older people, those with underlying health conditions and pregnant women can suffer more severe consequences from contracting coronavirus, the threat of being diagnosed with the illness is spread across all age groups. And while younger patients may suffer lesser symptoms, they can still spread the illness to people who may become more severely ill.
County officials on Wednesday addressed the potential mental-health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying resources are available for people feeling overwhelmed.
“Please take care of yourself. You are not alone,” County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said.
The county’s mental health department has a hotline available at 800-854-7771 that offers residents support and information about available resources.
Residents of the county and across the state are under orders to remain at home as much as possible, and engage in social distancing when they’re outside the home.
The restrictions were ramped up over the weekend in response to continued large-scale gatherings of people at beaches — most notably the Venice boardwalk — and on hiking trails.
“Seriously people, you need to practice social distancing. I am seeing tons of people out there acting like there’s no crisis. You could be carrying the virus, have no symptoms, and be responsible for the illness or worse of others,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia wrote on his Twitter page over the weekend.
The previous order prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people, but the revised wording released over the weekend prohibits “all indoor and outdoor public and private gatherings and events.”
People who go out for shopping or essential jobs are required to remain at least six feet away from anyone else. Residents are still free to go outside for walks, hikes or bike rides, but not in large groups.
Saturday’s enhanced order also clarified that golf courses and personal grooming services — including hair and nail salons — are nonessential services and are closed. The order can be found online at publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/. It requires “all indoor malls and shopping centers, all swap meets and flea markets, all indoor and outdoor playgrounds and all non-essential businesses to close.”
Businesses considered essential and permitted to remain open include hardware stores, repair shops, media outlets, banks, laundromats, dry-cleaners and pet supply stores.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed more emergency orders Monday related to the coronavirus outbreak, including a temporary suspension of evictions through Ellis Act proceedings, which allow landlords to sell their buildings and exit the rental market if they want.
“This step is necessary to keep tenants in their homes as we’re asking them to stay home, and if you cannot pay rent, you cannot be evicted,” Garcetti said, adding that not every landowner is part of a large corporation. “The money you owe won’t disappear. You’ll have six months to pay it back … and everyone is struggling.”
Garcetti said he also signed an order allowing restaurants and bars to deliver alcoholic beverages in the city of Los Angeles, saying he hopes the move will generate more revenue for those small businesses.
Meanwhile, the Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy was expected to arrive later this week at the Port of Los Angeles, providing an extra 1,000 beds to help alleviate the shortage in Southland hospital space.
The ship and its staff will not treat patients with the coronavirus but will offer a broad range of medical and surgical support, with the exceptions of obstetrics and pediatrics, said Rear Adm. Timothy Weber, the commander of the Naval Medical Corps Pacific and director of the Medical Service Corps. The ship will serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients admitted to shore-based hospitals and will provide a full spectrum of medical care including general surgeries, critical care and ward care for adults.
The Mercy’s presence will allow Los Angeles-area health professionals to focus on treating coronavirus patients and for shore-based hospitals to use their intensive care units and ventilators for those patients, Weber said.
County officials have been working to establish quarantine/isolation areas for people who either have the virus, have been exposed to it or are showing symptoms. One location has already been established at Dockweiler State Beach, where RVs have been parked to provide isolation space.
County Supervisor Hilda Solis announced Friday that the Sheraton Fairplex hotel in Pomona will become a quarantine/isolation facility beginning Monday. She said the county has negotiated a lease for the hotel’s 244 rooms that will continue through May 31, with an option to extend through June.
The Pomona Fairplex is also opening a child-care center for the children of first-responders, and a drive-through food pantry will begin operating at the facility on April 1. And the shuttered St. Vincent Medical Center in the Westlake district will also be used for patients with the virus.