Number of L.A. County coronavirus cases nears 8,000 as death toll reaches 223; cases among homeless people jump to 20

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An additional 425 cases of coronavirus and 25 deaths were reported in Los Angeles County Thursday, bringing the total to 7,955 and raising the death toll to 223, officials said.

The mortality rate has increased to 2.8%, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director said.

She said that she is “concerned” about the county’s rising mortality rate.

“That mortality rate is likely to drop once we’ve increased the number of people that are tested — and that we can determine are in fact positive,” the director said.

Cases among the homeless population have jumped from 12 to 20, and one person who worked at a local shelter has died. Most of the homeless people are unsheltered, but four were living in shelters, Ferrer said.

She added that while there are a number of people at several shelter sites are in quarantine and are being investigated as possible coronavirus cases, there are currently no outbreaks at any homeless shelters.

County officials are now investigating at least one COVID-19 case at 153 institutional settings, Ferrer said.

There have been 716 cases confirmed in institutional facilities across the county; 343 are residents and 373 are staff, Ferrer said. A total of 51 residents of such facilities have died — that’s 23% of all deaths. Ferrer noted that most of the deaths were elderly people who lived in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“I would imagine that as we continue in the days ahead, we will have outbreak situations in almost all of our institutional settings,” Ferrer said. “These are places where people often are sick and they’re also places where people are often close with each other.”

Additionally, 47 cases were reported in jail facilities and 11 cases were reported in local state prisons.

Among first responders, there have been 27 positive cases among Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department staff, with 447 members being quarantined and 188 who were quarantined but are now back at work, Ferrer said.

There have been 14 positive cases within the Los Angeles County Fire Department, with 26 quarantined at home, two in isolation and ill and 12 who have returned to work.

A total of 77% of all COVID-19 cases in the county have been among people between ages of 18 and 65, a number that has been consistent throughout the outbreak, Ferrer said.

She urged residents to take precautions because people of all ages can get sick and transmit the illness to others.

Of all positive cases, 1,894 people have at some point been hospitalized for COVID-19 — 24%, Ferrer said. Additionally, 20 to 35% of all people requiring hospitalization have needed ventilators, a “sharp reminder” that some people in hospitals are very ill and that COVID-19 can cause serious illness, Ferrer cautioned.

As of Thursday, over 38,300 people have been tested in the county, and 15% were found to be positive.

Officials are working to increase testing countywide, especially in more underserved communities, and new sites have opened up nearly every day this week, Ferrer said.

They hope to get 10,000 people tested a day, but have so far fallen short of that goal, Ferrer admitted earlier this week.

She said she’s troubled by data that show less access to testing in underserved communities. That, combined with higher rates of COVID-19 in African Americans, “means we have a lot of work to do and we have to do it right now,” Ferrer said.

The director noted again that Angelenos need to continue measures help slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We know that all of the sacrifices — and they are huge sacrifices — that everyone is making is in fact slowing the spread,” Ferrer said. “But slowing the spread is a consistent activity that we have to continue to do for many days to come. So I ask you to have some patience.”

She said social distancing measures must continue for the next few weeks.

“I know that this new reality that we are living in is not forever. And that we are gonna come out at the other end in a matter of weeks,” Ferrer said.

Also on Thursday, Joseph Nicchitta, director of the county’s Department of Consumer and Business Affairs announced that the Board of Supervisors will be considering a motion next week to establish a county relief fund for small businesses. He also reminded businesses to take advantage of the business and worker disaster help center, which the county launched on March 26.

Supervisor Katryn Barger also shared staggering figures from the state on the toll the coronavirus crisis has taken across California:

  • Unemployment insurance claims have increased by 370%
  • Meals provided to seniors have jumped 70% from February to March
  • Pantry services increased 200%
  • CalFresh applications increased 38%, with nearly 70,000 applications in March
  • CalWorks applications increased 32% in March

Correction: An earlier version of this article gave an incorrect figure for the number of people who have died from coronavirus after contracting it in an institutional setting. The post has been updated.

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