More than three dozen coronavirus deaths were reported in Los Angeles County Friday, while concern mounted over the virus’ spread in nursing homes, four of which have had outbreaks of 40 or more people testing positive for COVID-19.
According to Barbara Ferrer, director of the county Department of Public Health, 20 nursing homes or care facilities have had outbreaks of 20 or more people testing positive, and the county has asked for help from state and federal officials to control the virus’ spread and ensure affected facilities are fully staffed.
“We have requested additional assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and the state to help us address the need for increased technical assistance at the large number of sites that have positive cases,” Ferrer said. “This is particularly technical assistance around being able to implement stringent infection-control processes, and also we’ve requested additional staffing to support the high rate of staff absences at some of the facilities, which again limits the ability of the staff to provide high-quality care.
“We’re also working with a handful of nursing home providers who have offered to help us set up sites that can service COVID-19-positive patients that need to reside at skilled nursing facilities and intermediate-care facilities and are transitioning back, in many cases, from having stayed in a hospital for a few days,” she said.
According to Ferrer, at least one coronavirus case has occurred in 228 institutional settings — such as nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, shelters, jails and prisons — across the county, for a total of 2,183 cases. Those cases were 1,215 residents and 968 staff.
A total of 177 deaths have occurred in those settings, primarily at nursing homes or assisted living centers. That total represents roughly 36% of the virus deaths that have occurred countywide.
“We are extraordinarily worried about the outbreaks that continue to happen across the many different institutional settings,” Ferrer said.
The county’s death toll rose to 495 on Friday when the county announced 40 additional fatalities, although two of those were actually reported Thursday afternoon by officials in Pasadena, which maintains its own health department separate from the county. On Friday afternoon, Long Beach announced two more deaths, raising that city’s total to 20 and the overall county total to 497. Fifteen of the 20 people who died in Long Beach were associated with long-term care facilities.
For the 425 deaths for which ethnic data is available, 34% were Latinx, 29% were white, 18% were Asian and 16% were black.
The Los Angeles County mortality rate — the percentage of people with coronavirus who have died — was at 4.3%. That number is significantly higher than the 1.8% rate reported at the beginning of the month, but officials said the percentage will likely drop as the availability of coronavirus testing grows.
Ferrer reported 567 new cases in the county, although that figure includes 41 cases that were reported Thursday afternoon by officials in Pasadena and Long Beach, which also has its own health department. Long Beach Friday afternoon announced an additional 13 cases, giving that city a total of 419.
With the new county and Long Beach cases, the countywide total number of cases stood at 11,404.
Ferrer said 1,441 cases have been confirmed among health care workers in the county, 38% of them being nurses and 6% of them doctors. The cases were scattered among 26 health care facilities, 36% of them hospitals and 31% skilled nursing facilities.
Five deaths have been confirmed among health care workers, three of them nurses. Three of the deaths involved skilled nursing facility workers, one was a correctional health worker and one worked in a hospital, Ferrer said.
For the first time, Ferrer released numbers involving pregnant women, saying there are 61 known cases of pregnant women testing positive for the virus. She said 12 of them have already delivered their babies, and all six infants that were tested came back negative for the virus.
Ferrer stressed that despite talk at the White House and among state and local authorities about planning for the lifting of stay-at-home and business-closure orders, those mandates are still in effect, and she warned against complacency.
“COVID-19, as you note from all the numbers I report, has spread across our entire community, so we need to continue to do all we can do to slow the spread and prevent as many infections as possible while we plan for our recovery,” she said. “And just as a reminder, Safer At Home is still in place, and it’s important that everyone continue to follow the directives that are contained within the health officer order.
“This means staying home as much as possible, and if you must be out for essential services, as a reminder, you’re required to wear a clean cloth face covering and maintain your physical distance of six feet or more from other people that you may be in close contact with.”
The county on Friday also announced the availability of free same-day testing for people who have symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough and difficulty breathing. To schedule an appointment, visit lacovidprod.service-now.com/rrs.