Los Angeles County health officials on Wednesday confirmed an additional 29 deaths and 620 newly diagnosed positive cases as the area battles to contain the novel coronavirus.
Of the fatalities, L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said 17 individuals were over the age of 65 and all but one were listed as having underlying health conditions. Only one person was between the ages of 18 and 40 and they, too, had underlying health conditions. Ferrer reported the latest data during Wednesday’s county press briefing from downtown Los Angeles, where she was joined by other county leaders in addressing the area’s latest actions in the pandemic.
The total number of deaths in the county during the pandemic now stands at 198, increasing the mortality rate to 2.6 percent based on a case count of 7,530. There are 1,033 people currently hospitalized and, to date, 1,700 have required hospital care, reflecting 23 percent of all positive cases, Ferrer said. She also detailed investigations across the county’s institutional settings: 131 facilities now have at least one positive case, with 596 positive cases total (314 residents, 282 staff) and 37 deaths (same as Tuesday).
Across jails and correctional facilities, Ferrer reported 43 confirmed cases in jails (40 staff, three inmates), 10 in prisons (eight inmates, two staff), two cases in juvenile detention centers (both staff) and four cases in homeless shelters (two staff, two residents).
L.A. County’s daily press briefing was preceded by one featuring California Gov. Gavin Newsom updating the media on the latest numbers statewide. Currently, California has 16,957 positive coronavirus cases, and in the past 24 hours, an additional 68 people have died due to COVID-19 for a total of 442 lives lost. As of Wednesday, there are 2,714 people hospitalized and 1,154 of those are in intensive care units. Newsom also followed Ferrer’s update from Tuesday, during which she released data on race and ethnicity. The governor reported that officials are still in the process of gathering a complete statistical breakdown, but the preliminary numbers, based on 37 percent of patients, look like this: 30 percent Latino; 14 percent Asian; and six percent black. Additional data is expected to be announced in coming days.
During the prepared remarks portion of the press conference, Ferrer paused to highlight health care workers, saying “we all owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude” for their front-line service. Last week, she reported the county’s first death of a health care worker and on Wednesday, she said there have now been two. In total, 324 health care workers have tested positive, and Ferrer said nurses are the most likely to contract the virus. “The words ‘thank you’ don’t really convey the gratitude I feel. You are heroes,” she said.
County officials had hoped to increase testing capacity this week and, while the numbers are rising, they’ve yet to hit an announced goal of testing 10,000 residents per day. So far, 36,500 people have been tested, and tests remain exclusive to people who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and have been cleared by primary care physicians.
As officials continue to ramp up testing, Ferrer once again urged the public to be prepared to see the number of positive cases and deaths increase. “Please understand that we have weeks to go before we are able to lift our health officer orders,” she said, before mentioning this week’s religious holiday celebrations. “I know also that many people are observing our faith holidays and traditions right now, and we must all do this while we stay home. This is not easy — please know that what we’re doing right now is saving lives.”