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Los Angeles County on Friday reported its largest single-day spike in the coronavirus pandemic with 61 new positive cases, bringing the total cases countywide to 292.
Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, announced the news during a press briefing downtown. Of the new cases, three individuals are currently hospitalized. Ferrer said the median age for all positive cases is 47 years old and there have been 138 people between the ages of 18-65 who have tested positive, and she used that data point as an opportunity to warn young people. “While they may have a better outcome if they are healthy, they are, in fact, one of the largest groups of people we have tested who are positive,” noted Ferrer. “We know we need to be prepared for many, many new cases. We must practice social distancing in order to not overwhelm our health care system.”
As to how L.A. County compares to other major areas with dense populations, New York state had 7,845 cases as of Friday, with 5,151 confirmed positives in New York City. Of those, 1,314 are in Manhattan, 1,518 in Brooklyn, 1,406 in Queens and 667 in the Bronx. Meanwhile, according to the latest numbers posted by the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. currently has a total case count of 15,219, and 201 individuals have died.
According to The New York Times, New York performed 10,000 tests since Thursday and overnight it reported a jump in 2,000 cases. Ferrer responded to that jump and said that L.A. County and its residents need to be prepared to see similar numbers. “We might see 2,000 cases in one day,” she said. “In those situations, you tend to have clustering … where it’s happening in institutional settings. We need to be prepared to rapidly test those people.”
Testing continues to be a hot-button issue, and while New York reportedly tested 10,000 people overnight, Ferrer reported that L.A. County — with a population north of 10 million — still only reported testing of 2,400 people thus far. She said officials are working on increasing testing locations, including drive-thru centers, but she encouraged the public to just assume they have it or that they will be in contact with someone who does: “Testing may help identify people who are symptomatic, but for people who are negative, it only gives you an assurance for one moment in time. You can be negative today and positive tomorrow.”
Friday’s press conference comes on the heels of more extreme measures to “flatten the curve” announced by both L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Garcetti went first Thursday, announcing a “Safer at Home” directive to local residents, instructing them to stay inside their homes and limit outside movements to “essential” only. Newsom followed that with similar guidelines that apply to all 40 million California residents.
“This is a moment where we need some straight talk, and we need to tell people the truth,” said the governor, adding that people across the U.S. are now being required to “adjust our thinking and our activities” as a result of the guidelines that severely limit movement in unprecedented ways.
In the “You Can” category: grocery store runs; medical appointments; pharmacy visits; bank, post office, gas station and auto repair visits; and walks, biking, driving and taking public transportation. In the “You Can’t” category: hosting of gatherings of more than 10 people; hoarding of supplies and overbuying; bar, nightclub, gym, theater, bowling alley, arcade and music venue outings; in-restaurant dining; playgrounds; visiting non-essential retail stores or malls; and putting seniors or those with underlying health conditions at risk. As with all activities currently, experts are still advocating for social distancing guidelines of keeping six feet of distance between others.
— LA Public Health (@lapublichealth) March 20, 2020
On the East Coast, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday issued a stay-at-home order to more aggressively combat the spread of the virus. Per the order, dubbed “New York on pause” and outlined through “Policies Assure Uniform Safety for Everyone,” it mandates that 100 percent of the state’s non-essential workforce stay home.
Friday’s press conference in Los Angeles kicked off with L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who touched on “Safer at Home,” saying it will not be enforced by police officers or law enforcement personnel. “It’s not a punitive action,” she said. “It’s being done to protect the health and safety of our communities. … It’s truly about working together to ensure the spread of coronavirus is slowed down. We will get this done.”
Barger then welcomed L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis, who announced the first of “many solutions” the county is taking to provide safe and secure housing for individuals who have tested positive for the coronavirus or those who have been exposed to or live in close corridors with those who have. That solution is a temporary lease of Pomona’s Sheraton Fairplex hotel, which will provide 244 rooms to those who need to self-isolate. The lease begins Monday and runs through May 31, with an opportunity for an extension for an additional four weeks. Rooms will be provided on a first-come, first-serve basis, Solis added, and essential services such as food and laundry will be provided on-site.
Meanwhile, they have also partnered with local food pantry Sowing Seeds for Life to set up a drive-thru launching April 1 on the grounds of Fairplex, a 487-acre campus located in Pomona, where childcare for first-responders will also be available.
Friday’s briefing came a day after Ferrer reported the county’s second death — and while she did not mention that individual by name, it has now been reported that Jeffrey Ghazarian, 34, died following a brief battle with COVID-19. He also recently visited Florida with stops at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios.
At the tail end of Friday’s briefing, Ferrer was asked to provide a timeline for how long the coronavirus pandemic will remain a crisis to the public. Again, she said she does not have a definitive answer for that but she is encouraging people to be prepared to hunker down through at least the rest of the spring.
“What I do know based on what we’re seeing in other parts of world and our country is that this is going to last at least four to eight more weeks and I would suggest that people be prepared for it to go on much longer,” explained Ferrer. “It’s not that we know for certain it will, but the more we become prepared for a significant restriction on what we do with each other in larger groups, the better will be able to handle whatever comes.”
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