With caveat about weekend reporting lag, L.A. County announces ‘relatively low’ number of new coronavirus cases

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Los Angeles County recorded 239 new coronavirus cases Monday, representing the lowest one-day increase in over two weeks as the number of cases climbed to 9,420 with 320 deaths in the nation’s most populous county.

“That’s a good thing,” the county’s public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said, also noting that testing is limited on weekends and therefore less cases are usually reported on Mondays.

Though Monday’s increase represents the smallest rise in known cases since March 26, and numbers have been “pretty steady” over the past week, Ferrer said it’s still unclear if the number of cases is starting to plateau in the county.

“Though we reported a relatively low number of new cases today, I want to be only cautiously optimistic because, always on Mondays, we have a lag because of the lab reporting issues and lack of testing that happens over the weekends,” Ferrer said.

Officials reported another 25 deaths Monday, 11 of them were people aged 65 and older and all had underlying health conditions. Twelve of them were between the ages of 41 and 65, and 11 of those people had underlying health conditions, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

Based on preliminary information on some deaths where race and ethnicity were recorded, 14% were African American, 18% Asian, 33% Latinx, 33% white and 2% were listed as other, according to Ferrer.

The county recorded 31 new deaths on Sunday— the largest one-day jump in COVID-19 deaths so far in L.A. County.

The mortality rate from COVID-19 jumped to 3.4% in the county Monday. Ferrer noted that the rate can increase while the number of new cases confirmed drops since those who die oftentimes spend weeks in the hospital battling the respiratory illness, and so the deaths may not necessarily represent new infections.

“This will be a critical week again to see if we maintain a steady number,” she said.

So far, almost 52,00 people have been tested for the coronavirus in at L.A. County, with 13% testing positive.

Even as the county has ramped up testing after a slow start, opening up more drive-up sites and laboratories, Ferrer said the county’s capacity remains limited, with about 5,000 to 6,000 people tested each day. This makes it harder to predict when infections will actually start to decrease countywide, she said.

Ferrer said that if the testing capacity doubles across the county in the coming weeks, and positivity rate stays constant, there will be more cases confirmed.

“In the absence of having as much testing as we would all like, and with the knowledge that asymptomatic people may be able to transmit, we don’t know exactly who’s positive at any given moment in time,” she said.

Ferrer urged residents who are still waiting for their COVID-19 test results to self-isolate. This means staying in a separate room at home, wearing a face covering, keeping at least 6 feet away from others and not caring for children or serving others food. Those who test positive should tell everyone they had close contact with during the two days before the onset of symptoms to quarantine themselves for 14 days, she said.

As of Monday, 23 people among the county’s homeless have tested positive for the coronavirus, representing a slight increase from Friday. Most of them were unsheltered, authorities said.

The county is investigating 185 institutional settings with at least one confirmed coronavirus case, that’s an another eight since Sunday. Together they have 1,372 confirmed COVID-19 patients—681 of them being residents.

Ninety-two of all L.A. County residents who died were living in institutional settings, primarily in skilled nursing or assisted living facilitates. That accounts for 29% of all the county’s COVID-19 deaths.

So far, 2,354 of L.A. County’s coronavirus patients have been hospitalized at some point, representing 25% of all positive cases.

And after fears that the county’s hospitals would be overwhelmed under a flood of coronavirus patients, the county’s health officials said Friday that projections now show hospitals will be able to meet the demand at its projected peak. The Los Angeles Surge Hospital at the shuttered St. Vincent’s hospital in Westlake is set to open Monday to provide more intensive care bed space for COVID-19 patients.

But as hospitals scramble for protective gear amid nationwide shortages, California reported about 2,500 cases among its health care workers statewide, accounting for about 11% of the state’s over 22,348 coronavirus cases as of Sunday.

Over the past month, three L.A. County health care workers have died of COVID-19. Two of them worked at hospitals and one worked for correctional health, Ferrer said.

As of Monday, there were 787 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the county’s health care workers, with nurses accounting for nearly a third of all those cases. Most of those infected didn’t know or report where they were exposed to the virus, but 24% of them were infected through direct contact with a patient or another health care worker, according to the health department.

About 43% of the ill health care employees worked at hospitals, 19% at skilled nursing or assisted living facilities and 12% worked in outpatient settings.

In the county’s jails, 89 people have been infected, 63 of them staff. In state prisons located in L.A. County, there were 28 people infected, including 18 inmates. Four staff members at juvenile facilities have also tested positive for the virus.

There’s also a total of 14 cases at a Department of Children and Family Services facility, including one young person and the rest staff.

At the Department of Probation, 16 staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus, including six who worked at juvenile facilities, according to acting Chief Ray Leyva. It’s unclear if the six staff are different from the four in juvenile facilities reported by Ferrer.

The county’s stay-at-home order, initially set to end April 19, was extended through at least May 15. Officials ordered face coverings for all essential workers and told members of the public to also wear face coverings while they’re at essential businesses.

Here’s a list of where masks are required in Southern California and how to make one at home.

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