Los Angeles County’s top health officer broke down in tears Wednesday as she spoke about the devastating toll the COVID-19 surge has had on the region during a briefing on the pandemic.
“Over 8,000 people who are beloved members of their families are not coming back and their deaths are an incalculable loss to their friends and family as well as to our community,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, said as she struggled to gain composure.
The county on Wednesday reported 9,243 new infections — the second-highest daily case count reported since the pandemic began.
The five-day average for daily new cases reported with COVID-19 is 8,993, nearly double the five-day average for daily new cases the county saw on the day after Thanksgiving, according to public health officials. The number of people in the hospital due to the virus has also tripled over the past month.
There are 3,299 patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19 across the county, and 75 people have died of the virus in the past 24 hours, Ferrer announced, sobbing at one point during her report.
“Where we are, and where we are headed, is quite alarming,” Ferrer said. “Each day we continue to see a record number of people hospitalized since the very beginning of the pandemic.”
The number of deaths has been increasing -— from an average of 12 deaths per day on Nov. 9 to 43 deaths per day as of Wednesday — but this only reflects cases from a month ago, officials said. That figure will continue to grow as those who more recently tested positive become more sick.
“We are about to bear witness to a significant rise in the number of people who are dying,” Ferrer said, adding that this is the “most dangerous time for L.A. County.”
As of Wednesday, 8,075 people have died of the virus across the county, and 475,271 cases have been confirmed.
The current transmission rate is estimated at 1.14, representing the average number of people every COVID-19 people infects with the virus. The rate is the same as it was last week.
“Please be extremely careful and diligent in protecting yourself and everyone else,” Ferrer pleaded. “There is a great deal of community transmission, and you are at risk of becoming affected when you’re out of your home and you’re around other people.”
During Wednesday’s press briefing, Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly said “as many as one in every 100 individuals that you interact with out in the community are infectious.”
“Nearly two-thirds of all infections are caused by individuals who at that time, have no symptoms and appear fine,” Ghaly added. “Please realize how risky even basic activities and basic interactions with others are. Things that were safe one month ago, or two months ago, now are much higher risk and are not safe.”
The county’s latest numbers mirrors trends seen statewide.
The state on Tuesday shattered single-day records of coronavirus cases and deaths — 35,400 new infections, and 219 fatalities. On Wednesday, the state reported 30,851 additional cases and 196 new fatalities.
The latest figures mean an average of 135 Californians have died each day over the last week and nearly 25,000 people in the state tested positive for the virus daily, a figure more than twice as high as the peak during the summer surge.
The state announced Wednesday that the remaining capacity in ICUs, where the sickest patients are treated, is just 9% for the Southern California region.
The recent stay-home order closures are tied to ICU capacity, and were imposed because capacity in the region fell below 15%. The closures will last at least through Dec. 28.
“Please follow the health officer order for the next three weeks,” said Ferrer during Wednesday’s address, urging residents to take the stay-at-home order that went into effect on Sunday night extremely seriously.
Under the new rules, private gatherings of any size are prohibited and people must wear a mask anytime they go outside.