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For a third straight day, L.A. County has reported a record number of deaths from COVID-19.
In the past 24 hours, an additional 55 residents have died, a spike from Wednesday’s 42 and Tuesday’s 40. With Thursday’s figure, total deaths since Wednesday across California climbed to 69 as L.A. County continues to represent the epicenter for the outbreak in the state, both in terms of deaths and total positive cases. To date, 455 people have died in the county and 890 statewide, while total cases in L.A. County stand at 10,854 and 26,182 statewide. The mortality rate in the county once again has risen based on current figures, coming in at 4.2 percent.
“It reflects the devastating power of COVID-19,” L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in announcing the figures during the county’s daily live-stream briefing. The disease also remains most devastating for those who are older with underlying health conditions. Ferrer said that 43 people who died were over age 65, and 39 of those had pre-existing conditions. Nine individuals who died were between the ages of 41 and 65 and all had pre-existing conditions.
She also said that 88 percent of people who have died from COVID-19 have had underlying health conditions, “underscoring the need for us to work together so they can remain safe in their homes.”
While fatalities continue to spike, Ferrer offered a glimmer of hope in that the number of new cases remains steady, hovering between 400 and 600 in previous days. Over the past 48 hours, there have been 871 newly diagnosed positive cases, a decrease from Wednesday and in line with mitigation efforts that health officials say are working to help slow the spread.
“It is puzzling that our cases are staying stable but deaths are going up for this entire week,” she said. “Sometimes people can be in the hospital for a few days before they actually pass away. We’re not the only city to see this slag,” added Ferrer, citing New York and Seattle’s King County, which experienced a spike in deaths after new cases leveled off. “We’re very focused on making sure that we are using our mortality rate to guide our decisions.”
While that can be seen as good news, Ferrer said the number of institutional settings where her team is conducting investigations based on one or more positive cases continues to rise. On Thursday, they are looking into 209 settings — such places as nursing homes, assisted living facilities and correctional institutions — four more than Wednesday. The total number of confirmed cases across those settings is 1,963 (1,050 residents, 913 staff), and 158 residents have died, a figure that accounts for one-third of all casualties.
Ferrer did say, however, that nursing homes have not seen the rapid acceleration of cases that has been noted in similar locations in other cities, and she thanked health care workers and staff for their mitigation efforts. Ferrer was asked why the L.A. neighborhood Little Armenia has proven to be a hot zone of the outbreak with 51 cases and a high infection rate, and she cited two congregate living facilities there that have experienced outbreaks.
She closed her news conference by again offering a piece of optimism: “We’re never going to be able to go back to exactly the way it was before, but we are moving to the other side of the pandemic. It is working, and I hope you feel very proud of what you’re accomplishing with everyone else.”
Ferrer was joined at Thursday’s briefing by L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who updated COVID-19 relief efforts from her office. The release on nonviolent offenders and inmates nearing the end of their terms has become a focal point of the pandemic as congregate living facilities such as jails and correctional institutions are known to be a hotbed of infection. Ferrer included in her report that there are 71 confirmed cases in county jails (15 inmates, 56 staff) and 50 cases in prisons.
Lacey said her office ran individual risk assessments for 3,500 individuals and that she was standing her ground in not releasing those doing time for murder or other violent charges. “We are being extremely careful. We know there are risks associated,” she said. “We are trying to minimize public safety risk.”
Another area that Lacey has focused on, she noted, was working to thwart scammers attempting to profit during the pandemic. Specifically, her office has gone after price-gouging scams, those using the prospect of stimulus checks to get money or information from victims and those attempting to sell fake COVID-19 cures.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex said Wednesday in an interview that he released 25 percent of the county inmate population, totaling 4,276 nonviolent inmates. “We were faced with a choice: If we left the jail system fully populated and overpopulated, then the pandemic is a lot easier to sweep through the jail system and jeopardize everyone’s safety,” said Villanueva, per Fox11.
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