L.A. County coronavirus cases top 4,000 with 78 deaths

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Los Angeles County officials reported 534 new coronavirus cases and another 13 deaths Thursday, bringing the total number of patients over 4,000 as the death toll climbed to 78 countywide.

Of the 13 deaths reported Thursday, 12 were people over 65 years old and all but one had underlying health conditions. Another person who died was between 41 to 65 years old and also had an underlying condition, the county’s public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said at news conference Thursday.

Out of the county’s 4,045 coronavirus patients, nearly 900 have needed hospitalization— that’s 22% of all cases, showing a slight increase from the rate reported by the department in recent weeks.

Ferrer said 86% of all COVID-19 patients who had died as of Thursday had underlying health conditions, but nearly two-thirds of the 241 patients hospitalized did not.

As of Thursday, there were five people in intensive care units who are younger than 35 years old, according to Ferrer.

Though coronavirus testing remains limited, the county has significantly ramped up its capacity after a slow start as it slowly acquired more supplies.

Over 1,000 new cases were confirmed in the past 48 hours alone and more than 23,300 people had been tested countywide, according to Ferrer, who has said that the county is working on getting more testing sites up in underserved communities.

Of everyone tested in the county, 13% were found to be positive for the coronavirus.

With a surge in infections expected, health officials across the state have been urging residents to adhere to stay-at-home orders and practice social distancing as governments scramble to find shelters for the homeless, try to prevent outbreaks at nursing homes and work to get more hospital beds and protective gear for medical workers.

Nine homeless people in L.A. County have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday, Ferrer said, adding that there have been three cases in the county’s shelters. Those patients include two staff members and one guest.

Eleven people who have died of the respiratory illness in the county had been living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, she said.

The COVID-19 cases also include six staff members and one inmate at the county’s jails and six inmates at Lancaster State Prison.

As coronavirus testing sites pop up across the county and more kits are brought in, Ferrer has said she expects 10,000 people would be tested every day starting next week, but cautioned that it still takes too long to get results back and only symptomatic people should be tested.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on Wednesday urged Angelenos to make their own face masks to wear in public to protect from the spread of the virus.

Ferrer touted social distancing as the best tool to curb the spread of the illness, saying that while it might be a good idea for residents to cover their mouths and noses while out, it does not mean they should be outdoors all the time.

“The mask will not protect you 100%, particularly from infecting others,” she said.

Ferrer said members of the general public should not try to buy N95 masks, which should be reserved for health care workers as supplies remain limited.

Coronavirus cases in California topped 10,000 Wednesday, with L.A. County having the largest number of patients out of all counties in the state, the Los Angeles Times reported.

And with infections on the rise, Gov. Gavin Newsom has said that it’s unlikely schools will reopen before summer.

“This is not what any of us could have imagined,” L.A. County Office of Education Superintendent Debra Duardo said Thursday. “None of us anticipated a pandemic that would close down our schools and require all of us to physically distance ourselves from others.”

She said teaching will continue, and urged students to take remote learning seriously.

“One thing that all educators agree on… is that students should not be penalized because of this virus,” Duardo said, adding that schools are working with private companies to make sure all students have access to the internet and necessary electronic devices, as well as planning the best course of action to take for high school graduations, grading, special education and summer school.

Garcetti has said that preliminary data shows at least 60% of Angelenos reported that their income stream has been either significantly or somewhat reduced as businesses and schools extend closures to curb the spread of the illness.

Newsom on Thursday announced a comprehensive new job searching website that will assist out-of-work Californians —particularly those laid off due to the COVID-19 crisis — find jobs and resources.

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