L.A. County Reports First COVID-19 Death of Person Under 18 Years Old

Los Angeles County Public Health director Barbara Ferrer speaks as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (R) looks on at an Los Angeles County Health Department press conference - Getty - H 2020
ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

The minor is believed to be the first underage person to die in the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic.

Just minutes after it was revealed that Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally died Tuesday at age 81 due to complications from coronavirus in Florida, Los Angeles County reported its first death of an individual under the age of 18, another sign the pandemic affects all demographics. 

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of L.A. County's Department of Public Health, announced the news during the county's daily press briefing, during which she reported a total of four deaths — bringing the total to 11 — along with 128 new cases. The total number of coronavirus cases in L.A. County has risen sharply this week and now stands at 662. Ferrer was quick to point out that over the last 48 hours alone, there have been 256 new cases, a significant change to early last week when daily updates reported increases in the single digits.

“This is a devastating reminder that COVID-19 affects people of all ages,” Ferrer said in reference to the minor who died. She would only reveal that the person lived in Lancaster. No further details were immediately available. Regarding the other latest deaths, two individuals were between 50-70 years old and one "had underlying health conditions and resided in West Adams," per a press release issued following the press conference, and the other death was reported out of Long Beach. 

As of Tuesday's briefing, 119 positive cases have been hospitalized at some point during infection. Ferrer once again tackled the myth that coronavirus infects the elderly in more devastating ways than younger demographics, citing the latest L.A. County statistics: 42 percent of positives are between the ages 18-40, while 39 percent are between the ages of 41-65.

“COVID-19 does not discriminate by age, race or income level, and what we are seeing in places like New York is indicative of what we should prepare to experience here. While Public Health is doing everything possible to mitigate the impact of this disease in our community, we can only flatten the curve if everyone takes social distancing seriously and adheres to all isolation and quarantine orders issued by our health officer," Ferrer said in a prepared statement. 

She also again tackled the issue of testing across the county, detailing that 5,700 people have been tested thus far, with only 10 percent testing positive. Ferrer acknowledged that the rise in testing has created long wait times, particularly from commercial labs, before patients can receive results. Even before a diagnosis comes in, if individuals even presume they are positive, they should enter self-isolation while notifying close contacts to be on the safe side, she added.

Per Tuesday's numbers from the Centers for Disease Control, the total number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. is at 44,183, with the number of deaths at 544.

Ferrer was joined at Tuesday's briefing by L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and L.A. County Mental Health Director Dr. Jonathan Sherin. Sherin spoke about mental health services, offering guidance for residents in how to manage issues of anxiety and stress during the crisis, including using the department's 24/7 mental health hotline at 800-854-7771. Other tips included reaching out and expressing feelings to trusted friends, family members or mental health professionals; establishing new routines; picking up old hobbies; and avoiding dangerous routines like a reliance on drugs, alcohol or trolling for information online that "is likely rumor, because that makes anxiety worse over time." 

Ferrer also pointed out that the county's domestic violence services are open and available for anyone experiencing issues during the time of isolation and working from home. Ferrer also took a serious tone when she said that people who are not complying with mandated quarantine orders could face punishment. "We are going to ask that people comply," she said in reference to those orders, and if people don't, "there can be a legal remedy." As of now, they haven't had to rely on enforcement, so instead they are pushing out best practices and information since, in many cases, residents "don't know what the rules are."

Individuals who are sick are directed to avoid work, school and public areas; stay home until at least seven days have passed after symptoms first appeared and at least three days after recovery (fever is gone for 72 hours); and not use public transportation. More information can be found here