Los Angeles County health officials have reported more than 2,700 new coronavirus cases, along with another 50 deaths, as younger residents emerge as a growing percentage of new infections.
The number of people hospitalized remained elevated at 2,218, down from 2,232 on Monday but still among the highest numbers of the pandemic, according to the county Department of Public Health. The number of hospitalizations has topped 2,200 for three straight days as of Tuesday.
The county reported 50 deaths from the virus on Tuesday, although one of those fatalities was reported Monday afternoon by health officials in Long Beach. Long Beach reported one additional death Tuesday. The new fatalities lifted the countywide total to 4,155.
Public health officials also announced 2,741 new cases of the coronavirus, while Long Beach added 321 cases and Pasadena health officials announced 31 more. The new cases increased the countywide total since the start of the pandemic to 162,025.
Of the cases confirmed Tuesday by the county Department of Public Health, 57% were people under 41 years old, continuing the trend of younger people testing positive for the virus. Cases have generally been trending younger since the county began lifting health restrictions, allowing the reopening of restaurants and — at least temporarily — bars, which have since closed again.
“The tragedy of what we are witnessing is that many of our younger residents are interacting with each other and not adhering to the recommended prevention measures, while our older residents continue to experience the results of this increased spread with the worst health outcomes, including death,” county public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “People over the age of 65 years old account for 11% of all cases but account for nearly 75% of all deaths.
“Our behaviors, including the wearing of face coverings and the adherence of physical distancing — simple acts of kindness and caring — can protect those we love,” she said.
County Supervisor Kathryn Barger noted Monday that the current spate of cases appears to be the result of widespread gatherings over the Fourth of July weekend. Since the virus can have a two-week incubation period, newly reported cases generally reflect exposures that occurred around 14 days ago.
The overall rate of people testing positive for the virus was at 9.6% as of Tuesday. That figure had been hovering around 9% for most of the pandemic, but has inched upward in recent weeks.
Local authorities, along with Gov. Gavin Newsom, have practically been pleading with residents in recent weeks to take precautions against the spread of the virus, including staying home whenever possible, practicing social distancing and wearing face coverings. They have warned that if the surge of cases does not slow, it could lead to a return to stricter stay-at-home orders and renewed business closures.
Ferrer said Monday that the county is stepping up its contact-tracing efforts in hopes of containing the spread by identifying people who may have been exposed to the virus by confirmed patients. She said the county had allocated $10 million to outreach efforts to community organizations to ensure residents get connected with services and support if they have to isolate or quarantine.
The county has also begun offering $20 gift cards as an incentive for people who test positive for the virus to take part in the contact-tracing interview process, an hourlong process that Ferrer acknowledged can be stressful and requires people to look through their calendars and work schedules to identify their movements over recent weeks.
Ferrer said the county has also established a call center that coronavirus-positive patients can contact — 833-540-0473 — to be connected with available resources. The county is also starting to use text messaging to keep in touch with people under quarantine orders to check on their condition, she said.