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Los Angeles County on Tuesday recorded its deadliest day yet during the coronavirus crisis with 40 more fatalities and 670 newly diagnosed cases.
A total of 360 county residents have died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, as the total number of positive cases tops 10,000, a new milestone for this unprecedented global pandemic that has claimed 125,476 lives across the U.S. and decimated the economy.
L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer announced the new numbers during her daily press briefing held downtown at the Board of Supervisors headquarters. “Each day I report these numbers, I hope you know that we mourn with you and we keep you every day in our thoughts and prayers,” she said before listing other relevant data points, including institutional investigations, race and ethnicity breakdowns and the number of fire department officials who have tested positive.
But a major talking point from Tuesday’s briefing came towards the end of Ferrer’s prepared remarks, when she broached the subject of when the county would lift strict Safer at Home health orders, thus reopening businesses and the economy. It came just minutes after California Gov. Gavin Newsom held a highly watched briefing during which he outlined the state’s six-point plan for lifting tight restrictions and resuscitating the world’s fifth-largest economy.
Ferrer said now is the time to start addressing modifications to the restrictions as well as making sure the right safeguards are in place to prevent a possible surge in new cases and overwhelmed hospitals and health care systems, something California was largely able to avoid. “Our goal is so that as more places become open, we don’t get to a place where we need to close them again,” she said.
Ferrer outlined a four-pronged approach that includes making sure sick people have access to health care systems and in those systems, staff have access to personal protective equipment like masks and shields; ensuring that the most vulnerable residents (older populations, those with underlying health conditions and the homeless) are protected, along with those in under-resourced communities; widespread testing capacity with the ability to safely self-quarantine and isolate people who test positive or have been exposed to the illness; and adequate social distancing measures and guidelines for all business once they are allowed to reopen.
Ferrer was asked how the county will determine when to ease the restrictions and if local leaders are taking into account Gov. Newsom’s program. She said the message is clear with state, county leadership and the board that everyone has the same goal: Set the stage for recovery, but don’t do so at the risk of another outbreak. “The governor and the county are very much aligned,” said Ferrer. “We have to have plans in place to ease some of the restrictions, but we have to do that in a manner that is safe.”
Back to the numbers: Ferrer said that of the 292 deaths reported in L.A. County, 16 percent were African American, 17 percent Asian, 34 percent Latinx, 32 percent White and two percent identified as another race. She also reported 26 cases among the county’s homeless population; 34 positive cases in the Sheriff’s Department; 16 among the Fire Department; 64 in jails (11 inmates, 53 staff); 29 in state prisons (19 inmates, 10 staff); and four in juvenile detention centers, all of whom are staffers.
The number of institutional investigations has continued to rise, now reaching 199 facilities, such as nursing homes, treatment centers, correctional facilities and so on, all of which have at least one confirmed case of COVID-19. Across those, there are 1,596 confirmed cases and 109 deaths.
“We do want to remind everyone that we are not yet on the other side of this pandemic,” said Ferrer. “We are going to need to keep up our efforts to avoid a surge in cases that will overwhelm our hospitals. We don’t want to lose ground.”
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