L.A. County COVID-19 Update: 46 More Deaths, Outbreak at Skid Row Homeless Shelter

Homeless tents - Skid Row area in downtown Los Angeles, California on March 19, 2020 - Getty-H 2020
APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images

The Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles reported 43 positive cases, and of those, only 16 people were symptomatic.

Another 46 people have died in Los Angeles County since Monday due to COVID-19 illness, bringing the total number to 663.

For a second straight day, the number of newly diagnosed positive cases has increased significantly — Tuesday by 1,400, Monday by 1,491 — due to a backlog of cases, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, said during the county’s daily press briefing amid the coronavirus pandemic. The issue, she added, are labs that are unable to transmit electronic results to the county.

The total number of positive cases in L.A. County stands at 15,140, and 1,739 of those patients are currently hospitalized with 31 percent seeking treatment in ICUs. COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, continues to devastate older populations and those with chronic conditions. Eighty-nine percent of the 663 people who have lost their lives faced underlying health conditions. 

Ferrer said her team is still investigating 269 institutional settings that have reported at least one confirmed case, an increase of four new venues since Monday. In total across those settings, there are 2,913 positive cases (1,692 residents, 1,221 staff) and there have been 255 fatalities to date, representing 38 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the county.

Ferrer paid special attention to updates regarding the Union Rescue Mission, a shelter located in downtown L.A. for those experiencing homelessness. The center, founded in 1891 and serving hundreds of guests per day, reported its first positive case on March 28, she said. To better support quarantine efforts, public health officials implemented a broad testing strategy and administered 200 tests for which her team pulled results for 187 individuals, signaling the largest outbreak thus far in a homeless shelter.

The Mission reported 43 positive cases and of those, only 16 people were symptomatic. All are currently isolated and the facility has agreed to quarantine remaining guests and no longer allow new guests or visitors. "They’ve also enhanced daily screening and deep cleaning," said Ferrer, reporting that 184 people who were residing have now been moved to hotels and motels nearby. Her team continues to meet with Mission staff and leadership to monitor the situation on a daily basis.

Ferrer was asked to respond to whether L.A. County has already hit a peak, but she said she preferred to use the term "plateau." "What you have are plateaus — you go down a little and come up a little," Ferrer explained, singling out New York, which has experienced a steep rise, or peak. "We, instead, have tended to live on a plateau with some little rises and small little dips. It’s a good sign for us. We’re all just doing our best to avoid those steep peaks."