The coronavirus pandemic continued its relentless march across Los Angeles County, with more than a dozen new deaths reported and the total number of cases topping 4,600, while the county’s public health director warned residents to brace for more staggering numerical increases in coming weeks as testing capacity improves.
Los Angeles County public health director Barbara Ferrer reported midday Friday that 11 more people have died from the virus, bringing the county’s total to 89. But by mid-afternoon, Long Beach health officials reported another death in that city — a woman in her 60s with underlying health conditions. Late Friday afternoon, Pasadena reported two additional deaths, both of whom also had underlying health conditions, pushing the countywide death toll over 90.
Long Beach and Pasadena both have their own public health departments separate from the county. Long Beach has reported three deaths among its residents, but one of those deaths occurred in Orange County and has not been included in the Los Angeles County total.
Ferrer said that of the 11 deaths reported by the county Department of Public Health, seven were people over age 65 with underlying health conditions. Three of the new deaths were people between 41 and 65, and two of them had health issues. The other death was a person aged 18-40, also with underlying health conditions.
Ferrer said 78% of the people who have died in the county were over age 65.
Ferrer also reported 521 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, pushing the county’s total to 4,566. Long Beach later added 18 more cases, while Pasadena added another 21, pushing the countywide total to 4,605.
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said Friday that a makeshift hospital with 100 beds is being established at the Long Beach Convention Center, similar to one already in place at the Los Angeles Convention Center. He said a drive-through coronavirus testing facility will open in cooperation with the county next week at Long Beach City College’s Pacific Coast Campus.
The number of cases across Los Angeles County has been growing by roughly 500 per day this week. But Ferrer said that as more testing comes online, the number of confirmed cases will likely jump to 1,000 daily — given that roughly 10% of people who are tested turn out to be positive, and the county expects to soon have capacity to test 10,000 people a day.
“We want to be prepared for that,” Ferrer said. “I think that it’s very accurate that at some point next week we will start reporting that big an increase in the number of cases, because thankfully we’re able to actually test more people and make sure that people who are tested have the opportunity, if they are positive, to isolate themselves and not infect others and identify their close contacts, who will quarantine themselves and also not potentially infect others.
“So this is what it means for all of us here in L.A. County: The next few weeks are going to be critically important because we are going to see more cases of people who are positive with COVID-19. But it’s our hope that the rate increase continues to be manageable and that we don’t overwhelm our health care system. And I think that in part depends on all of you.”
Ferrer said the county has been testing about 7,000 people a day, and noted there is often a long wait for results to come in.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the county includes seven homeless people. Ferrer on Thursday said nine homeless people had tested positive, but she said Friday further investigation determined that two of those people were not actually homeless.
She said the county has 25 cases of the illness in correctional facilities — 18 staff members and seven inmates.
Ferrer said 541 people were hospitalized due to coronavirus as of midday Friday across the county. On Thursday, the county reported only 241 people hospitalized. Public health officials said 1,018 people who have tested positive thus far were hospitalized at some point.
She said health officials are investigating coronavirus cases at 67 “institutional settings” — such as nursing homes, skilled nursing centers, assisted living facilities, residential treatment programs, shelters, jails and prisons. That number is up from 54 on Thursday. She said there have been a total of 321 positive cases at those facilities, and 11 of them have died.
The ability of the virus to spread even before patients develop symptoms has led to increasing recommendations that residents wear some type of non-surgical mask or face covering when they go out in public. Ferrer and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti have both touted the benefits of covering their faces to prevent a spread of droplets that can spread the virus from falling on surfaces or on other people.
Officials continued to stress that residents should not purchase hospital-grade masks, which are in short supply and desperately needed in hospitals.
Ferrer said people can use scarves or other fabric, suggesting that people go online for instructions on how to fashion a homemade mask.
Ferrer again noted that wearing such a face-covering does not free people from the need to remain at home as much as possible and practice social-distancing and hand-washing.
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