Coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County topped 5,200 Saturday as another 28 deaths were reported in the county’s biggest one-day increase yet.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed 711 new cases of the novel coronavirus as the total number of deaths climbed to 117 in the county.
“This is the most dramatic increase in deaths we have seen since the COVID-19 crisis began,” the county’s public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said in a written statement.
Since the county’s first death was reported on March 11, The largest number of COVID-19 single-day deaths reported by the county was 13 on Thursday.
A total of 5,277 people have tested positive for respiratory illness countywide as of Saturday, according to a public health department news release.
Of the patients who most recently died, 21 had underlying health conditions and 17 of them were over the age of 65. Two of them were over 65 but did not have underlying health conditions. Another nine were between the ages of 18 and 65, and six of those people had underlying health conditions.
“Unfortunately, today’s significant increase in the number of people who have died leaves so many families in our communities facing unimageable loss and grief,” Ferrer said.
Over the last 48 hours, there have been 1,238 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in L.A. County, the department said.
“Testing capacity continues to increase in LA county, with almost 29,000 individuals tested and 14% of people testing positive,” the department said.
As the county ramps up testing for the virus, going from testing less than 50 people to 7,000 every day, Ferrer said Friday that residents can expect to hear about 1,000 new positive cases a day starting next week.
With the coronavirus spreading to almost every area in the county, public health officials have continued to urge residents to stay at home and keep at least 6 feet away from others if they have to go outside. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommended that all Americans wear masks when outside, urging every one to keep medical grade masks for those on the frontlines of the pandemic and instead make their own masks.
As of Saturday, 1,168 of people who tested positive for the virus in L.A. County needed hospitalization at some point— that’s 22% of all the county’s coronavirus patients.
“The next few weeks are going to be critically important because we are going to see more cases of people who are positive with COVID-19,” the director said Friday. “But it’s our hope that the rate increase continues to be manageable and that we don’t overwhelm our health care system.”
In Los Angeles, city officials reported Saturday that the number of Los Angeles Police Department employees who have tested positive had grown to 43, along with 13 Los Angeles Fire Department members.
As more cases are reported locally, L.A. County has become the epicenter of the virus in California. The state had a total of 276 deaths and 12,026 coronavirus patients as of Saturday, with around 2,300 people hospitalized, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Officials have been scrambling to secure more hospital beds and ventilators for patients, protective gear for medical workers, shelters for the homeless and working to try to prevent outbreaks at jails and nursing homes.
In Los Angeles, a 1,000-bed U.S. Navy hospital ship, the USNS Mercy, arrived last week to alleviate some pressure on local hospitals by providing care for patients that don’t have COVID-19.
The governor on Saturday vowed to significantly expand the availability of COVID-19 testing for Californians, reporting that about 126,700 people have been tested in the state and around 13,000 of them are still waiting for their results.
The number of people waiting for results at one point reached a peak of 59,500, Newsom said.
“You deserve more and better,” the governor said.
Ferrer on Saturday urged residents to follow public safety orders, especially to protect those who are most vulnerable to serious illness.
“Though COVID-19 infects people of all ages, the majority of the people dying from COVID-19 are individuals over the age of 65 with underlying health conditions,” Ferrer said. “Now more than ever, we must try to protect those most vulnerable by making it easy for them to take every precaution and safely stay home.”