L.A. County Coronavirus Update: 25 Deaths, Lowest Newly Diagnosed Case Count Since March 26

Los Angeles amid coronavirus - Getty - H 2020
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COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 320 people across the county as of Monday, causing the mortality rate to rise to its highest level of 3.4 percent.

An additional 25 people have died from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County and there are 239 newly diagnosed cases as of Monday, marking the lowest daily increase reported over a 24-hour period since March 26.

The total number of coronavirus cases countywide now stands at 9,420 as the area remains under strict Safer at Home guidelines through May 15. L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer announced the new numbers Monday during the county’s press briefing from Board of Supervisors headquarters. She was quick to point out that she’s only “cautiously optimistic” about the low number of new cases due to limited lab results over the weekend and because Mondays typically deliver lower numbers for that reason.

On Easter Sunday, public health officials reported 323 newly diagnosed cases and 31 new deaths, the largest spike in fatalities thus far. But the peak of new cases happened on April 4 and since then, daily newly diagnosed numbers have gone down: 456 new cases and 25 deaths on Saturday; 475 new cases and 18 deaths on Friday; 425 new cases and 25 deaths on Thursday; 620 new cases and 29 deaths on Wednesday; 550 new cases and 22 deaths on Tuesday; 420 new cases and 15 deaths on April 6; 663 new cases and 15 deaths on April 5; 711 new cases and 28 deaths on April 4; 521 new cases and 11 deaths on April 3; 534 new cases and 13 deaths on April 2; and 513 new cases and 11 deaths on April 1.

Ferrer was asked to comment on this perceived plateau, but she was hesitant, citing the lag time of results and lack of widespread testing. “This will be a critical week again to see whether we maintain a steady number,” she said. “We’ve always been honest about noting that we, unfortunately, are limited in really understanding exactly whose infected at any given point in time because of the limitations on testing.” Testing is increasing with more than 52,000 residents tested to date, translating to 13 percent positive cases. 

To date, 320 people across L.A. County have died, and Ferrer said that the mortality rate has inched up again to 3.4 percent. Asked to explain the increase, she said people who are dying from COVID-19 illness often are sick for “quite a long while before they actually die,” which can account for a lag time in death rates versus total cases. Ferrer also offered race and ethnicity date for 262 fatalities: 33 percent among Latinx residents; 33 percent among white residents; 18 percent among Asian residents; 14 percent among African American residents; and 2 percent identifying as another race.

She confirmed a total of 23 cases among L.A. County’s homeless population, a slight increase from Friday, with the majority still coming out of the unsheltered population. Ferrer said she has not yet seen any data that signals an outbreak. She also provided updates from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and Fire Department, as those divisions are reporting 33 and 16 positive cases, respectively.

The number of institutional investigations across the county continues to increase with a total of 185 settings currently being looked at by public health officials. There are 1,372 positive cases (681 residents, 691 staff) across nursing homes, assisted living, treatment and correctional facilities. Thus far in the pandemic, 92 residents have died, accounting for 29 percent of deaths, which is why institutional settings continue to be an area of concern for officials. Also, many of the people living in congregate facilities like nursing and skilled nursing homes are older populations susceptible to serious COVID-19 illness. 

The county press briefing followed a statewide update courtesy of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who updated the current data (22,348 positive cases; 687 deaths; 3,015 currently hospitalized with 1,178 treated in intensive care), and praised residents for staying home over the religious holiday weekend: “The curve is being bent because of you, because of your willingness to stay home, including this Easter weekend. We didn’t see the surge some were predicting at beaches and parks. Again, it reinforces why we are so grateful to each and every one of you for those numbers not growing exponentially.”

Gov. Newsom also announced that coming Tuesday will be a detailed framework for reopening California’s economy and relaxing Safer at Home guidelines. He said that the plan was made in conjunction with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee as part of a Western states pact. Conversations, Newsom added, gained speed over the past week as state leaders gained more insight from coronavirus data and modeling.

“Health outcomes and science — not politics — will guide these decisions,” the governors said in a joint statement, seemingly in reference to President Donald Trump’s tweet over the weekend that he had ultimate power in deciding when the U.S. economy would be reopened. “Modifications to our states’ stay at home orders must be made based off our understanding of the total health impacts of COVID-19, including: the direct impact of the disease on our communities; the health impact of measures introduced to control the spread in communities — particularly felt by those already experiencing social disadvantage prior to COVID-19; and our health care systems’ ability to ensure care for those who may become sick with COVID-19 and other conditions. This effort will be guided by data. We need to see a decline in the rate of spread of the virus before large-scale reopening, and we will be working in coordination to identify the best metrics to guide this.”

Even Ferrer was asked about the tweet, but she only had glowing things to say about the county’s relationship with federal partners, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Health. 

She did, however, say that federal and local officials are in 100 percent agreement that strategies about what happen locally should be determined by the conditions locally. “The president is really anxious for us to reopen, we are anxious for us to reopen,” said Ferrer. “Everyone knows that reopening will be staggered. … We all have the same intent: We want to get to the other side and get to the other side without causing a collapse of our health care system and unnecessary deaths.”

Speaking of tweets, Gov. Newsom was asked what he made of Trump retweeting a post that called for the firing of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the veteran health leader who serves on his coronavirus task force. Said Newsom, “Dr. Fauci is someone who we are very familiar with on the West Coast through his heroic work on HIV/AIDS crisis. He was a man of integrity, remarkable character then and continues to be today.”

Back to the county briefing, Los Angeles County Supervisor and Board of Supervisors Chair Kathryn Barger urged residents to hold tight during the challenging times for there are better days on the way. “These holidays remind us that after a long period of hardship, there is hope and peace waiting for us on the other side,” said Barger, adding that the decision to extend Safer at Home guidelines through May 15 will help expedite an end to the crisis. “There really is a light at the end of the tunnel.”