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Reporting a record number of coronavirus deaths Thursday for a second day in a row, Los Angeles County’s health director made an alarming announcement: “A person now dies every 10 minutes in L.A. County from COVID-19.”

Another 148 COVID-19 deaths were reported in L.A. County on Christmas Eve, surpassing the previous record of 145 set just the day before.

“It is heartbreaking to report today nearly 150 more L.A. County residents died from COVID-19 leaving families grieving through the holiday season,” L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.

So far, 9,299 people have died of COVID-19 in the county and projections predict that the worst is yet to come.

L.A. County forecasts show that another 8,700 people in L.A. County will die from COVID-19 before Jan. 31, 2021, Health Services Director Christina Ghaly said in a Thursday briefing.

“That is nearly three times the number of people that died in the 911 terrorist attack,” Ghaly said. “These people did not need to die.” 

A surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths followed spikes in infection numbers.

Since Nov. 9, average daily deaths in L.A. County have increased 467% — going from an average of 12 deaths per day to 69 daily deaths on Dec. 16, according to Ferrer.

“A person now dies every 10 minutes in L.A. County from COVID-19 – and since many of these deaths are preventable, our collective focus should be on doing right to save lives,” Ferrer said. “I hope we can each find the strength and courage to take responsibility for each other’s well-being.”

(L.A. County Department of Public Health.)
(L.A. County Department of Public Health.)

The unprecedented coronavirus surge has had a dire effect on hospitals throughout the county.

There was a record 6,499 people with COVID-19 hospitalized throughout the county Thursday — 20% of them in intensive care units.

More than 1,600 people with COVID-19 have flooded into hospitals in just the past week alone.

And in most hospitals, half of all ICU beds are filled with COVID-19 patients, Ghaly said, adding, “many of these people will not live to see 2021.”

Ambulances carrying critically ill residents are now forced to wait for hours to offload patients into crowded emergency departments, or are traveling farther because hospitals are on diversion. And hospital workers are strained, with many working long hours without breaks, Ghaly said.

“There’s a lot of discouragement and outrage about what we continue to see going on… outside of the hospital,” Ghaly said, describing images of crowded malls, people socializing and going to playgrounds without  masks.

L.A. County reported 13,678 new coronavirus infections Thursday, bringing the countywide total to 677,299 cases.

“The surge that we are in right now, was avoidable, and the one that is coming on the heels of this recent activity was avoidable,” she said.