Los Angeles County health officials reported 1,329 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 56 additional deaths Saturday, bringing the county’s totals to 62,338 cases and 2,620 fatalities.
“Each day, we think of the many people who are experiencing the sorrow of losing a loved one to COVID-19. Our thoughts and prayers are with you every day, and we are deeply sorry for your loss,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health. “If you are out and around other people, whether it be visiting reopened spaces or protesting, please try to keep physical distance of at least 6 feet from others and wear a cloth face covering at all times. If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 while out, it will be important to remain away from others as much as possible for 14 days. Should you develop symptoms within 14 days of exposure, please contact your health care provider or call 2-1-1 to connect to care and testing.”
Ferrer said the high numbers of cases aren’t necessarily bad news, because they allow health care workers to trace contacts and advise those who might otherwise spread the infection to self-isolate. Only about 4.5% of those getting tested are testing positive, she said.
The percentage of people dying who had underlying health conditions remained high, at 94%, leading Ferrer to caution vulnerable residents to continue to stay home even as more businesses begin to open and to call a doctor at the first sign of symptoms.
The data available on race and ethnicity continued to reveal much higher rates of deaths among black residents and those living in poverty.
While Latino residents represent 41% of total COVID-19 deaths countywide, it is more telling to look at those deaths in context of the overall population. Based on that analysis, the death rate for Latino residents is 29 per 100,000 people, as compared with 31 per 100,000 people for black residents — both much higher than the 15 per 100,000 white residents.
Asians die at a rate of 21 per 100,000, while the numbers for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders with COVID-19 are dying at a rate of 30 per 100,000 people.
Poverty also pays a significant role.
“We see that people who live in areas with high rates of poverty have almost four times the rate of death for COVID-19,” Ferrer said Friday.
Based on a model that considers how many people would have died if all people of all races and ethnicities were dying at the same rate as those with the lowest rate, public health officials calculated “excess deaths.”
“It paints a very disturbing picture,” Ferrer said. “If the death rate for all groups were the same as it is for white residents, who have the lowest death rate, we would have 754 fewer deaths.”
Of those hypothetical “excess deaths,” 480 represent Latino residents, 143 black lives could have been saved and 125 of disproportionate deaths represent Asian residents.
“These results are absolutely devastating and represent real people whose lives have been lost,” Ferrer said. “They also starkly show how inequities have a life and death consequence.”
She said the county is working hard to increase resources for these under-resourced communities, including expanding testing sites to 73 facilities across the county.
“The very real impact of the injustices plays out every day with the news I share with you and amplifies why racism is a public health issue,” Ferrer said. “The disproportionately higher number of deaths from COVID-19 among black and brown people is an indication of the impact of racism and discrimination on health and well-being.
“It starts at the beginning of life when black babies are three to four more times likely to die before they reach their first birthday and at the very end of life when black residents die, on average, six to 10 years younger than all others,” Ferrer continued. “We must look at the root at the structures, systems and practices in our society to understand the root cause of these inequities.”