After announcing that the coronavirus has killed nearly 800 people in Los Angeles County, Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer that the respiratory illness is now the leading cause of death in the nation’s most populous county.
“More people are dying each day from COVID-19 than from other diseases that we track and get information on,” the director said Thursday.
The average daily reported number of deaths for the county is now up to 44, Ferrer said.
To put the numbers in perspective, she said that on average, five people die from the flu each day during flu season, while 31 people die each day from coronary heart disease.
“Back on April 12, we reported 31 deaths from COVID-19, and at that time, it was our highest daily count,” she said.
But from April 12 to 23, there were 535 deaths due to COVID-19, representing 67% of all of the coronavirus deaths that the county had in just a two-week period.
“These numbers are a stark reminder for all of us of the importance of slowing the spread of COVID-19. Because in slowing the spread, we have the opportunity, each and every one of us, to save a life,” Ferrer said.
The announcement comes as California saw its deadliest day for COVID-19 on Thursday, with 115 new fatalities reported.
Gov. Gavin Newsom stressed again that the uptick in deaths means it is still too early to reopen the state.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Newsom said during his daily coronavirus briefing.
A total of 1,081 new COVID-19 cases were reported in L.A. County Thursday, bringing the total count to 17,508.
A day earlier, officials said the number of new cases in the county is expected to remain steady over the next month rather than continue to climb, thanks to ongoing social distancing measures.
There are now 100 people experiencing homelessness who have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Ferrer noted that because results from testing at the Union Rescue Mission in Skid Row are still coming back, that figure is likely an undercount.
In many of the institutions where officials have been able to test both symptomatic and asymptomatic people, which includes the rescue mission, the majority of people who have tested positive were asymptomatic, Ferrer said.
“Our numbers have gone up dramatically, but many of the people who tested positive — more than half so far— didn’t present with any symptoms at all,” Ferrer said.
She said this underscores the need for increased testing at institutional setting, as the county is now investigating seven additional homeless shelters and identifying staff that need testing and potential quarantine.
Officials had previously announced they will start testing both symptomatic and asymptomatic residents and employees at local nursing homes and other facilities.
The county is now investigating 286 institutional settings with at least one case of COVID-19 — that’s 11 new locations since Wednesday. Ferrer noted that 26 skilled nursing facilities have 20 or more coronavirus cases among residents.
There are now a total of 3,343 cases of the respiratory illness in facilities countywide, and 310 residents have died — representing 39% of all COVID-19 fatalities in the county. The majority of those who died resided in skilled nursing facilities.
Nearly half of the county’s over 300 skilled nursing facilities have had coronavirus cases among staff and residents, according to the California Department of Public Health. Testing people inside those facilities will help isolate those infected and better prevent additional outbreaks, officials said.
Over 98,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Los Angeles County, with about 14% of those tests coming back positive.
Ferrer encouraged those who have symptoms to get tested.