Hospitalizations and rates of transmission of coronavirus continue to decline in Los Angeles County, a result of physical distancing efforts in recent weeks, health officials said Wednesday.
This week, the death toll surpassed 5,000 even as the county appears to be making a shift in the fight against the virus. On Wednesday, the Department of Public Health confirmed another 58 fatalities and 2,428 new cases, bringing the death toll to 5,109 with 214,197 cases.
However, officials said the additional cases are higher than usual due to a backlog resulting from a glitch in the state’s electronic reporting system.
Health officials described decreasing hospitalization and transmission rates as markers of progress. Less than a month ago, the average daily number of hospitalizations kept climbing. On July 20, officials confirmed 2,232 people were being hospitalized — more than on any other single day of the pandemic.
On Wednesday, the health department said there are currently 1,538 people being hospitalized with about 32% being treated in intensive care units.
The 3-day average of daily hospitalizations — or the average of the last three days — has declined to about 1,600 from more 2,000 in late July, according to public health data.
L.A. remains on the state’s list of counties being monitored and cannot reopen indoor restaurants, movie theaters, schools and other businesses until making necessary improvements.
The fight is far from over but Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said she’s hopeful since the county has managed to curb the spread of the virus earlier this summer and again more recently — even after some troubling surges in fatalities and hospitalizations.
“We’ve now, twice, managed to figure out under different circumstances and with different evidence, how we can actually slow the spread here in L.A. County,” Ferrer said.
The effective transmission number, or average number of new infections created by each one, is estimated to be about 0.86, said Dr. Roger Lewis, who leads the Department of Health’s COVID-19 Predictive Modeling Team. He said that figure was 0.91 last week.
“This is absolutely good news but it does not mean that transmission has stopped,” Lewis said.
Last week, modeling by the Department of Health indicated about one in 510 people in Los Angeles County were considered infectious. That number is now estimated to be about one in 725 people. Less people are believed to be infectious — and less patients are being hospitalized — because the virus’ rate of spread went down, Lewis said.
“Two to three weeks ago, the rates of transmission of COVID-19 began to slow in our communities,” Lewis added. “The data that we see today in terms of new hospitalizations reflects what was happening two to three weeks ago.”
Still, colleges and universities will remain restricted to online classes and distance learning with the exception of lab work and other activities that need to be on campus, health officials said Wednesday. Coronavirus-related restrictions remain on many industries.
And health officials continue to express concern over communities being hardest hit by the virus — particularly those with high levels of poverty and the county’s Hispanic population.
There are higher mortality rates among Hispanic residents compared to every other group, something public officials and experts have attributed to people working in essential jobs.
County officials have worked to expand testing to communities considered higher risk due to such demographics, recently setting up sites in Azusa, Huntington Park and MacArthur Park.
Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Wednesday the city is looking into developing rapid at-home coronavirus tests with the help of bioscience firms, health experts and public officials.
Younger adults continue to drive new infections, health officials said, continuing a trend that’s lasted for several weeks. Despite that and other obstacles, some officials applauded the declining hospitalizations and other recent gains.
“This is what progress looks like when we work together… We wear masks, wash our hands, distance when we’re outside the home and stay home whenever possible,” Lewis said.