More than 30 additional deaths due to the coronavirus have been reported by Los Angeles County health officials, along with more than 1,260 new cases, while the number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 continued its slow upward climb.
Health officials in the county and state have been expressing concern about recent increases in hospitalizations due to the coronavirus. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday morning that across the state, the number of people hospitalized has jumped by about 29% over the past two weeks.
In Los Angeles County, the number has been slowly climbing for the past week, and as of Wednesday, the number stood at 1,556, up from 1,515 on Tuesday. The county Department of Public Health noted this week that the number is still less than the pandemic peaks of more than 1,900 patients, and there is no immediate threat of hospitals becoming overwhelmed with patients.
But the rate of people testing positive for the virus has been on the rise. As of Tuesday, the seven-day average of positive tests was 8.8%, up from 5.8% just two weeks ago. Newsom said a similar spike in the positivity rate was being seen statewide.
In a bit of good news, Los Angeles County reported only 1,260 new cases, ending a stretch that saw the daily number top 2,000 four times in the past week.
The 1,260 new cases reported by the county, along with another 132 reported by Long Beach health officials and 11 by Pasadena, lifted the overall county total to 89,633.
The county also reported another 34 deaths from the virus, although one of those fatalities was actually reported Tuesday afternoon by Long Beach. Long Beach and Pasadena officials each announced one additional death Wednesday.
The new deaths increased the countywide total to 3,207.
Unlike previous large jumps in daily cases, county public health director Barbara Ferrer said this week that the recent increases were not attributable solely to backlogs in test reports from testing labs. Instead, she said the increases were indicative of increased community spread of the virus, likely the result of more people being out of their homes as sectors of the economy reopened.
Such a rise was anticipated when the county began reopening businesses about a month ago, leading to more people being out of their homes and interacting with other people. Although no clusters of cases have been specifically linked to recent mass protests against police brutality, Ferrer said it was also highly likely that those marches — many of which included large numbers of people without masks and ignoring social-distancing mandates — caused more spread of the virus.
Continued increases in hospitalizations and positivity rates in testing could raise the possibility of the county re-imposing business closures and stricter stay-at-home orders to avoid overwhelming hospitals.
“Public Health will monitor the data closely to see how increases in cases and rates of positivity affect the number of daily hospitalizations over the next few weeks,” according to a statement Tuesday from the county Department of Public Health. “Our collective goal is to prevent an overwhelming surge of COVID-19 cases at health care facilities.”
The city of Long Beach announced, meanwhile, that it will start reopening its community pools next week for lap swimming and exercise classes, but restrictions will be in place to ensure public safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
In another development, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, introduced legislation to provide free cloth face coverings via U.S. mail to any American who requests one, as well as authorize a public service announcement campaign and further research into mask efficacy to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“As many states, including California, experience a worrying climb in COVID-19 infection rates, it’s time to take seriously one of the most effective interventions we have — masks and face coverings. Simply put, masks work,” Schiff said.
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