More than 50 new fatalities due to the coronavirus have been reported in Los Angeles County, while the number of people hospitalized continued to dwindle, again raising hopes that infection-control measures are working.
The county Department of Public Health reported 53 new deaths Friday, while Long Beach added one more fatality, raising the countywide total since the start of the pandemic to 4,919. The county also announced another 3,116 confirmed infections, while noting again that problems with the state’s electronic laboratory reporting system is contributing to an under-count of virus test results.
The state’s top health officer, Dr. Mark Ghaly, told reporters Friday the situation is being resolved and he expected to see the backlog — affecting as many as 300,000 tests — begin to clear in 24 to 48 hours.
Once the backlog is resolved, Los Angeles County and other jurisdictions could see a sudden jump in infection numbers.
Long Beach on Friday reported 66 new virus cases, while Pasadena health officials announced 25. As of Friday, a total of 204,257 positive cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the county since the start of the pandemic.
The number of people hospitalized due to the virus, however, continued its steady decline Friday, falling to 1,680 in the county — down significantly from the 2,200 level of about a month ago. The hospitalization numbers were averaging about 2,000 a day last week.
The reporting problems at the state level do not affect coronavirus hospitalization or death numbers.
“The lower number of daily hospitalizations we are seeing is an indicator that we are making some progress,” county public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “However, we need to see lower rates and our future success depends on commitments we each make every day about doing our part, working together and sustaining efforts that get us to the other side of this pandemic.
“Our collective goals of slowing the spread of this virus and reopening and keeping open vital community and economic sectors means we must put off the parties, gatherings and trips to crowded places in order to get low community transmission rates so we can reopen our schools and get more people back to work,” she said.
At least three high-profile parties have occurred in the L.A. area over the past week in spite of health orders against such large gatherings. One of those events, a party in the Beverly Crest area, ended in a fatal shooting.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has authorized the city’s Department of Water and Power to cut off utility service to homes or businesses that host such gatherings. Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu on Wednesday introduced a motion suggesting various penalties for people who host parties, including permit prohibitions or having a certificate of occupancy held or revoked.
Health officials have noted that younger people — those more likely to attend such a large gathering — represent the bulk of newer coronavirus cases being reported, and they are also representing a higher percentage of people being hospitalized.
The overall slow progress in controlling the spread of the virus has forced area schools to continue online instruction for the upcoming school year.
The state on Friday released protocols for colleges and universities that eventually reopen their campuses, although most for now are primarily holding virtual and distance-learning courses. The protocols include face coverings for everyone on campus, social distancing and six-foot spacing of desks, a ban on most indoor classes for counties — like Los Angeles — on the state’s coronavirus monitoring list, elimination of shared-space areas such as lounges and game rooms and limits on nonessential visitors and campus activities.
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