Fifteen more deaths from coronavirus were reported Monday in Los Angeles County, raising the total to 147, while the overall number of cases went up by 420 as the county entered what officials expect to be one of the worst weeks in terms of virus spread.
“If you have enough supplies in your home, this would be the week to skip shopping altogether,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the county Department of Public Health. “If you can arrange for pharmacies and medications and groceries to be delivered, this would be the week to put that in place.”
Ferrer particularly stressed the need for people aged 65 or older and people with underlying health conditions to remain at home. She noted that 83% of the people who have died from the virus in L.A. County had underlying health conditions, and 76% of those who died were older than 65.
“It’s very important to us that if you’re elderly or you have an underlying health condition that you stay home, except to go to medical appointments,” Ferrer said. “When you’re out and about, even for essential services, you’re putting yourself at risk for becoming infected with COVID-19 and becoming seriously ill. This is especially true as more and more people in L.A. County are infected and capable of infecting others.
“Please take advantage as much as possible of delivery services for groceries, medication and other essential items. We want to encourage grocery stores and pharmacies to offer free delivery services wherever possible to those at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19.”
Of the 15 new deaths reported Monday, 12 were people over age 65, and seven of those people had underlying health conditions. The other three patients were between 41 and 65, and one of them had an existing health problem.
Most disturbingly in the new numbers was an increase in the county’s mortality rate from the virus, which increased to 2.3% — meaning 2.3% of the people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have died. Late last week, the county’s mortality rate was 1.9%.
The 420 new cases brought the county’s total number to 6,360, Ferrer said. That figure included 213 cases in Long Beach, which has its own health department separate from the county. However, Long Beach on Friday afternoon reported another 17 cases in that city, raising its total to 230 and the countywide figure to 6,377. Pasadena, which also has its own health department, has 58 cases.
There are 12 confirmed cases of coronavirus among the county’s homeless population — one of whom may have been in a shelter while infected, although that case is still under investigation. Ferrer said there are only two confirmed cases of coronavirus in county homeless shelters, both involving staff members.
She said 1,366 people who have tested positive for the virus have been hospitalized at some point, with about 900 people hospitalized as of midday Monday.
There are 109 different institutional facilities — such as nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, shelters, jails and prisons — that have had at least one case, representing a total of 512 cases and 26 deaths. She said there have been 31 cases confirmed at correctional facilities, 22 of which involved staffers and nine inmates.
As of Sunday, more than 32,000 people have been tested in the county. About 14% of the people tested in the county have tested positive, but Ferrer said that figure is likely artificially high, because the county has not been receiving reports from some labs on the number of negative tests, resulting in a higher percentage of positive results.
As she has for several weeks, Ferrer noted that despite an increase in the availability of testing, the tests are still relatively scarce and should be reserved for people in high-risk groups or who are directed by a health-care provider to get tested.
County officials said three more COVID-19 mobile testing sites would open this week, at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital, in East Los Angeles and Santa Clarita.
Ferrer said health officials across the county have been warning about the potential for staggering increases in cases this week. She said last week that the daily increases in case numbers could jump as high as 1,000 due to increased availability of testing.
But while more testing is the main driver of the numbers, Ferrer said Monday the sheer number of people who are infected means the volume of people at risk is exponentially higher.
“We estimate that there’s a whole lot of people who are asymptomatic at this point,” she said, noting that they all “may be able to affect others.”
She said that if all of the 6,000-plus people who are known to be infected in the county expose two to three other people, “you can see why we’re worried.”
Ferrer praised residents for heeding the advice to wear cloth face-coverings when mingling with the public, and she again stressed the people avoid buying medical-grade, or N95 masks, that are desperately needed in health-care settings.
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