L.A. County Reports High Coronavirus Death Count, Public Health Director Talks Reopening Strategies

Los Angeles County Public Health director Barbara Ferrer - Getty - H 2020
ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Dr. Barbara Ferrer on Wednesday reported the latest coronavirus numbers across the county and, again, touched on what the new normal will look like for businesses, museums and cultural sites once they start the slow process of reopening.

One day after reporting the highest number of fatalities across Los Angeles County during the coronavirus pandemic, the region has topped it once again by reporting 42 more deaths in a 24-hour period on Wednesday.

Forty people lost their lives on Tuesday, with the total number of deaths across the county at 402 since the pandemic started. Currently, there are 10,496 positive cases in L.A. County, and the mortality rate remains consistent with Tuesday at 3.8 percent. The total number of deaths account for nearly half of the state’s COVID-19 casualties, a figure that now stands at 821.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, reported the latest numbers during the daily coronavirus press briefing from the Board of Supervisors' downtown headquarters. Of the 402 deaths, Ferrer and her public health team have compiled race and ethnicity breakdowns for 330 individuals, and she noted that there continues to be a disproportionality related to total numbers of populations. Of the 330, 34 percent were Latinx, 31 percent White, 17 percent Asian, 15 percent African American and two percent belonging to another race or ethnicity. African Americans make up roughly more than seven percent of the county’s total population.

Ferrer also reported 472 newly diagnosed cases, accounting for 1,142 new cases over a 48-hour period, one of the highest jumps in that frame. There are 28 confirmed cases among L.A.’s homeless population; 205 institutional investigations where there is at least one confirmed case accounting for a total of 1,764 cases and 133 deaths (accounting for 33 percent of all deaths); 70 cases in jails (15 inmates; 55 staff); 34 cases in state prisons (23 inmates, 11 staff); the Sheriff’s Department has 32 cases with 432 staffers currently quarantined; and the Fire Department has 16 positive cases, 17 isolated and three who are currently ill and isolated.

Ferrer then addressed her comments from Tuesday, bringing up the most popular subject of the week — the timetable for reopening businesses and the economy. She said once restrictions are relaxed, strategies and enforcement must be in place to protect workers and consumers so that residents can still practice safe social distancing "for many months to come." That means, for example, retail stores will have to limit the number of customers allowed in at any given time, just as grocery stores have been doing.

Ferrer also touched on museums and culture sites across the county, saying that officials at those institutions will have to limit patrons and, in some instances, go spectator-free for live events. Trails and bike paths may have to transition to one-way in order to accommodate physical distancing. Furthermore, she said hand washing and face coverings will continue to be mandated as part of mitigation efforts, and some businesses may start taking temperatures of prospective patrons to make sure people are fever- and/or symptom-free before they enter.

"I want to thank you for all that you’re doing by staying home, practicing physical distancing and wearing cloth facial coverings," said Ferrer. "There isn’t a single person in our county whose life hasn’t changed. … I ask you to continue to do your part. Be kind to yourself, and show compassion for one another."