‘This will be the week to skip shopping’: Officials warn of critical time as L.A. County COVID-19 cases top 6,300 with 147 deaths

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Los Angeles County officials reported 420 new coronavirus cases an additional 15 deaths Monday, bringing the total number of patients to 6,360 as the death toll climbed to 147 countywide.

In the last 48 hours, 1,083 new cases were confirmed, and officials warned there is a critical week ahead.

“We will see many more cases over the next few weeks,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, said Monday. “If you have enough supplies in your home, this will be the week to skip shopping altogether.”

Over the weekend, the county recorded its biggest one-day increase of fatalities related to the virus, reporting a total of 28 deaths in just 24 hours.

Ferrer noted that the county’s numbers are large and they have increased significantly in one week. And because asymptomatic people can spread the illness, the number of COVID-19 cases will continue to grow.

“We’re worried, that without everyone taking every possible precaution, our numbers could start skyrocketing, that’s one thing we don’t want to see happen,” Ferrer said. “It really is time for those people who may not have taken this seriously before, to understand the seriousness of what’s going on in our communities, the seriousness of living through a pandemic.”

Of the 15 people who died recently, 12 of them were over age of 65 and seven of those had underlying health conditions. The other three were between 41 and 65, and one of them had underlying conditions.

The mortality rate of COVID-19 in the county increased to 2.3%, Ferrer said.

Of all positive cases in the county, 1,366 have at some point been hospitalized — that’s 21% of all positive cases. There are about 900 people currently hospitalized for COVID-19, 6% of those are in the ICU, and 45% of those who are in intensive care are 65 and older.

Ferrer emphasized again that while coronavirus afflicts people of all ages, it disproportionally affects people who are older and have underlying health conditions.

She pointed out that 83% of people who died from COVID-19 had underlying health conditions and 76% have been older than 65 — that’s more than 3 out of 4 people who have died.

Ferrer urged people in those groups to stay home and take advantage of home deliveries.

“There is a lot of virus circulating in our community and you are not safe when you go out and about,” Ferrer said. “So please only go out for those medical appointments that are essential.”

Among people who have died as a result of the virus, 26 were residents at skilled nursing facilities or assisted living facilities.

The county is investigating cases at 109 institutional settings that have at least one positive case. The total number of confirmed cases in those settings is 512 — including 257 residents and 255 staff, Ferrer said.

There are 31 total cases of coronavirus across all correctional facilities, including nine inmates, with the rest being staff.

Among the homeless population, there are 12 positive cases of COVID-19. The county is investigating one person who may have resided in a shelter while they were potentially infectious, while the other 11 homeless people were not living in a shelter.

As of Sunday, more than 32,000 people have been tested across the county and 14% of them were positive, though that number may be inflated because labs may not be reporting all negative cases, Ferrer said.
 
“These are huge improvements,” she said. “But I want to acknowledge that testing scarcity still exists in some places more than it does in others.”

The director urged people who don’t have symptoms to be patient and that the best thing they can do is stay home to avoid infecting others.

Officials are working “around the clock” and hope to ramp up testing in the coming days as new drive-up testing sites open, L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said Monday.

Last week, the county opened two new testing locations in Antelope Valley, and one at Glendale Memorial Hospital. New locations are planned this week in East Los Angeles, Santa Clarita and at Drew Medical Center, the supervisor said.

Los Angeles County has the largest concentration of COVID-19 cases in California. Across the state, cases have topped 15,000, with 351 deaths, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Christina Ghaly, director of the county’s department of health services, said on Monday that officials are making sure hospitals can meet the projected demands of the coronavirus.

Ghaly noted that the department is having lower-than-normal emergency department and trauma rates amid the pandemic. She said the county normally serves 850 emergency patients a day, and it is now less than half.

“Yesterday there were 360 patients a day,” Ghaly said.

St. Vincent Medical Center in the Westlake district will reopen on April 13 as a surge hospital for those who test positive for COVID-19. The hospital will not allow walk-ins and will not have an emergency room to serve patients, Ghaly noted.

As stay-at-home orders went into effect to curb the spread of the virus, business closures have left many without jobs.

Otto Solórzano, the acting director of the county’s Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services, said officials are doing everything they can to support workers, business and communities alike during the crisis.

He announced that his department will be offering up to $10,000 grants to help businesses in unincorporated areas with less than 50 employees to help cover expenses.

The agency is offering free home delivered meals to those who are 60 and older impacted by the pandemic.

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