Health officials note ‘real’ increase of COVID-19 community transmission in L.A. County since reopening

Local news

For the third day in the past week, Los Angeles County health officials have reported a dramatic increase in new COVID-19 cases.

L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer reported 18 new coronavirus-related deaths and 2,571 new cases on Monday. In recent weeks, an uptick in cases was being attributed to a lag in reporting of hundreds of cases by labs; this time, officials said it’s a “real increase.”

“This is the third day, in the past week, where we are reporting more than 2,000 new during a single day,” Ferrer said. “While some of this may be due to lags in reporting, the numbers do tell us that we’re seeing an increase in community transmission.”

Ferrer said the county has been conducting contact tracing when possible in an attempt to find out the source of an exposure. But, she noted, the recent increase could be because of protests in Los Angeles the last few weeks following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“What we haven’t really been able to do because we have such a high volume of cases coming in, is really pinpoint whether or not the exact source of an exposure was a protest,” Ferrer explained. “But I do want to say it is highly likely given the increase in numbers that we are seeing that some of this is in fact people who may have been in a crowded situation at one of the protests where there was spread.”

Ferrer said it is also highly likely the jump in cases may have been from a workplace and a range of other sites where people are coming into close contact with each other.

Countywide, a total of 85,942 people have tested positive for the coronavirus and a total of 3,137 people have died from the virus. Of those who have died, 94% had underlying health conditions.

Currently, 1,453 people are hospitalized with the coronavirus, with 28% in an intensive care unit and 19% on ventilators.

Local health officials expected to see an increase in new coronavirus cases upon the county’s reopening, but it will be key to keep a close eye on what that means for area hospitals, according to Ferrer.

“What’s really important is that we don’t see such a spike in new cases that it translates into overwhelming the hospital care system,” she said.

To help Angelenos understand the need to continue to practice individual COVID-19 safety measures in their daily lives, Dr. Christina Ghaly, the county’s health services director, shared a new statistic on Monday.

According to Ghaly, a public health model shows that about one in 400 residents in L.A. County are currently infectious, but because of the uncertainty inherent in the model that number could be anywhere from one in 200 to up to one in 700.

“This number reflects only the estimated individuals who are actively infecting others,” Ghaly said.

Ghaly said many of the infectious individuals are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, and urged residents to keep wearing face coverings, maintain social distancing, wash their hands and sanitize high-touch areas.

Anyone who was exposed to someone with the coronavirus should also be sure to self-quarantine for 14 days, Ghaly added.

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