L.A. County Coronavirus Update: 51 Additional Deaths, Decline in Hospitalizations

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Los Angeles

As California's largest county continues to ease restrictions, public health officials praised residents' efforts in helping slow the spread and prevent a surge on the health care system.

An additional 51 people have died in Los Angeles County from COVID-19 illness over the past 24 hours for a total of 1,709 deaths thus far in the pandemic, it was announced Thursday. One individual who died was an inmate at the Terminal Island federal prison, the eighth person there to fall victim to the coronavirus.

In revealing the latest numbers, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer noted that the high number of deaths dwarfs that of the average fatality rates of influenza, or the common flu. She said there were 125 flu-related deaths in the county in 2019 and on average there are about 250 deaths per year. "That’s why the mortality rate [for COVID-19] is so worrisome," explained Ferrer. “It far exceeds what we’re used to seeing with that virus or other communicable diseases."

Ferrer also reported 925 newly diagnosed positive cases for a total count of 35,329 residents with COVID-19 to date, including 1,094 in Long Beach and 607 in Pasadena. Of those, 1,742 are currently hospitalized and Ferrer said based on last week’s numbers, there has been a slight decrease in the number of hospitalizations, a positive sign that efforts here are working to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. She added that there have been 272,000 tests administered thus far for a 11 percent positive rate.

In another piece of good news, Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, said because officials opted to enforce strict safer-at-home mandates in March, the county managed to avoid a surge on the health care system and an overwhelming death/case count. If they hadn’t acted quickly, "we would be in the midst of a public health disaster the likes of which none of us would have experienced. That’s not where we are today, thankfully," she explained. Prior to that, she did, however, acknowledge the devastating effect the orders have had on the livelihoods of millions of residents, both from an economic and a mental health standpoint: "This virus has taken an incredible toll on our community, ourselves and one another. Many of us have lost loved ones, and the economic impact is also more than many of us can bear."

Ferrer acknowledged Wednesday’s announcement of a new health officer order that allowed for retail shops and the manufacturing firms that support them to reopen for curbside/door side pickups and delivery. She issued a reminder for residents to practice physical distancing, to wear cloth masks and to avoid overcrowded lines and groups. Ferrer also noted that beaches, trails, parks, tennis courts, equestrian centers, BMX parks, outdoor archery facilities and community gardens are all open for active use.

While Los Angeles County remains in phase two of its COVID-19 recovery phase, the stage is not yet set for life to return to normal. Movie theaters, gyms, barbershops and hair and nail salons are all part of phase three.