More than 50 additional deaths from the coronavirus have been confirmed across Los Angeles County, while the rate of people testing positive over the past week again crept upward, further fueling a pandemic surge.
The county Department of Public Health on Friday confirmed 2,667 new coronavirus cases, while Long Beach reported another 74 and Pasadena added seven. Long Beach and Pasadena each have their own health departments separate from the county.
The new cases lifted the overall county number since the onset of the pandemic to 127,439.
County health officials reported 51 new deaths, although two of those were reported Thursday by Long Beach and Pasadena. Long Beach announced an additional four deaths Friday, while Pasadena reported two more.
As of Friday afternoon, the overall county death toll from the virus stood at 3,744.
Nearly 1.27 million people have been tested for COVID-19 during the pandemic, with about 9% testing positive. The average daily positivity rate over the past seven days, however, was at 10% as of Friday. That number is up from the 8.4% rate of about a week ago, but slightly below the 11.6% rate it reached earlier this week.
Also Friday, the number of people hospitalized in the county due to the virus was 1,995, with 26% of those people in intensive-care units. That figure is down from Thursday’s report of 2,037, but hospitalizations over the past week have been running well above the levels of a month ago, when the number hovered between 1,350 and 1,450.
County health officials and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned this week that if the surge in cases, positivity rates and hospitalizations continue, there’s a chance the county could see a return to tougher stay-at-home orders to slow the virus’ spread.
County public health director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday she does not want to see such restrictions imposed again, but nothing has been ruled out.
“Nothing can be off the table in the pandemic,” she said. “There’s too much unknown and there’s lots of things that could happen that could put us in much worse shape, including, you know, some serious mutations of this virus that make it more dangerous. So I would never be the person that’s going to say, `absolutely, out of the question, we can never go back to Safer At Home.’
“There’s just too much unknown here. There’s a virus, there’s a pandemic. A lot of what happens here also depends on what’s happening in other places around the country, so we shouldn’t really take any tools off the table,” she said. “What I would like to say is, I hope we never have to go back to Safer At Home. I hope we do our job well … all of us do our job well and we get back to what we know we can do, which is slow that curve.”
Ferrer said multiple times this week that the increasing numbers of cases and hospitalizations could lead to spiking numbers of deaths in the coming weeks.
On Thursday, she again warned that younger residents continue to drive the increasing numbers of infections, and those people can easily pass the infection to people more vulnerable to serious complications or death.
“Younger people infect everybody else,” she said. “… They don’t just get to choose, I’m only going to infect a low-risk person that I know is going to be able to tolerate COVID-19. That’s not how it works. As a young person, you inadvertently unknowingly could be infecting people even in your age cohort who then go on and infect somebody else who’s at risk and actually may even die.”
Fears of the virus spreading among young people will be heightened over the weekend, when a heat wave drives up temperatures, likely leading to large crowds at Southland beaches.
Garcetti urged residents Friday evening to continue taking precautions — avoiding crowded places, confined spaces and close contact with others. He said get-togethers with people outside residents’ own households are still prohibited under health orders.
“Gatherings large and small are a major source of spread,” the mayor said.
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