The L.A. County Department of Public Health has reported 40 new coronavirus cases and one death, marking the second life lost in the county amid the growing pandemic. The total number of cases now stands at 230.
Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, released the numbers during a Thursday press conference downtown during which she said that the individual who died was “relatively young,” between 30-50 years old, and suffered from underlying health conditions. The age range of sickness and death for those suffering from COVID-19 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus) has become a major talking point this week. At a White House briefing yesterday, Dr. Deborah Birx, who serves as response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said her team is concerned about reports out of Europe that indicate more young people are becoming seriously ill from the virus, which was believed to be most damaging to older people and those suffering from underlying health issues.
Ferrer took the opportunity after reporting the new death to speak directly to youth, encouraging them to do their part to help mitigate transmissions while keeping themselves safe. “The unfortunate news that we announced today of having our second death in the county was someone who was relatively young, this was not the usual experience across world and the U.S. It absolutely is true that there are many, many young people between the ages of 18 and 40 who are infected themselves, who are having serious illness … and can die. I urge young people to take hold of this opportunity in front of you to do what’s right — not just for you, but for everybody who is around you,” she said. “This is not the time to have a party at your house, hang out with a crowd at the beach, or hang out on trails at our [beautiful state parks]. For those young people who don’t have serious illness, I can promise you that they are passing it on to people who have serious illness. This is something that everyone has to do: Take heed and help us all. We need your help, and we all benefit from your help.”
According to the latest numbers reported Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control, the United States currently has 10,442 cases of the novel coronavirus, and 150 people have died thus far. Those numbers are culled from 54 jurisdictions including all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Sources of exposure include travel-related (290); close contact (310); and under investigation (10,442). In New York City alone, officials reported 3,615 confirmed cases and 22 deaths, a rise from 2,009 cases and 11 deaths by Wednesday night. The spike in positive cases can be attributed to the boost in testing as more tests have become available in private labs and local hospitals.
Of testing in L.A. County, Ferrer said that official are increasing the capacity for drive-thru testing, something health advocates say is a good option considering that coronavirus is so highly transmittable. She did say, however, that she’s asking the public to just operate with a couple of assumptions: Assume you have it or you will get it, and do everything you can now to prevent infecting others. “You don’t need a test in order to do that.” And while testing has increased — exact data was not provided during Thursday’s briefing — the numbers of positive cases decreased again today, down from 46 yesterday and 50 the day before.
Other highlights from today’s press conference are below.
• Dr. Christina Ghaly, L.A. County Health Services Director, first offered her thanks and gratitude to health care workers and first responders who are actively working to care for patients while preparing for new ones. She then offered an update on bed counts across the county. She said of 22,000 beds, there are 2,200 beds in intensive care units. Currently, there are 870 open beds in regular units compared to 185 open beds in ICU units. Those numbers do not reflect private hospitals, but she did say that all hospitals are now implementing surge plans, a routine measure taken when a higher volume of patients is predicted. “These these are unprecedented times,” she said. “We need to follow guidance of public health experts — that is the best way to flatten the curve.”
• Ferrer was questioned on if any individuals in either the homeless or inmate populations have tested positive. “The answer is no,” she said. “But that’s the answer in this moment in time. We have investigated possible cases in both settings and none of them to date have been positive. I don’t want anybody to take some sense of relief that this is not going to happen. it’s highly likely to see cases in both groups. Correctional Health is doing an excellent job isolating folks waiting for tests and quarantining close contacts. … They do an extraordinary job managing cases and close contacts in our jails. We are set up should we have positive cases.”
• Ferrer responded to a query about the experimental vaccine mentioned multiple times by President Donald Trump in his daily press briefings this week. She said that the best tool in a tool kit remains a vaccine but even with promising results, a vaccine needs to go through a “fairly rigorous testing process” before it can be distributed widely. “In the absence of that, we have to [rely on] social distancing.”
• Toward the end of the briefing, Ferrer was asked to forecast how long the pandemic could stretch out. “We have to plan for the worst possible scenario and be prepared to shift to better scenarios. We’re going to plan for this to last weeks or even months,” she said before adding that there are two main things to know about this: “We don’t know everything that we wish we knew. and there’s no example I can point to anywhere in world that we’re going to do this for 7 days or 10 days or two weeks and life will return to normalcy we had a few weeks ago.” That’s just not possible and not likely, she said.