Coronavirus cases in L.A. County top 3,000 as death toll rises to 54; 1st health care worker among those who died

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Coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County have topped 3,000 after 548 new cases were reported Tuesday.

There are now 3,011 total cases and 54 deaths in the county. One of the deaths reported Monday included the first known health care worker, who was over 60.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, noted during a briefing Tuesday that cases have tripled in one week, in part due to an increase in testing capacity. The county hopes to at some point test 10,000 people per day, officials said.

Positive cases include 10 Los Angeles County firefighters, Chief Daryl Osby said. Seven have recovered and returned to work while the other three are in isolation but doing well.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, whom the Board of Supervisors voted to remove as head of the county’s emergency operations center, also announced coronavirus cases within his department: Seven employees have tested positive, including five sworn deputies and two civilians. As a result, 49 people are under medical quarantine and 102 are under self-imposed quarantine.

Of the 10 new deaths reported Tuesday, four were under 65 while one person was under the age of 41, Ferrer said. Not all of them had underlying health conditions, “a reminder of the ferociousness of this virus,” the health director noted.

“These aren’t just numbers. These are real people and they’re being mourned today by their family and their friends,” Ferrer said.

The mortality rate of the virus in the county remains at 1.8%, which is slightly higher than that of the U.S. but on par with larger jurisdictions, Ferrar said.

More than 19,000 people have been tested in L.A. County, and Ferrer noted that many people can be infected and may not have serious and debilitating disease, but can still infect others.

Nearly 600 people have been hospitalized at some point, about 20% of total cases.

Of the 267 people currently hospitalized, 173 are 55 and older. Twenty-five percent of people who are hospitalized are in intensive care, six of which are under 35, Ferrer said.

There are currently 35 ongoing investigations at institutional settings with at least one confirmed case, Ferrer said. Of those, 20 are nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities and one is a shelter.

There are 155 confirmed COVID-19 cases within those facilities, including staff and residents, Ferrer said.

There remains 11 facilities with three or more cases, which are considered outbreaks of the virus.

Though testing capacity has tripled in the county, so have positive cases, which are now up to 12% over the previous 10%, Ferrer indicated. She emphasized that wait times for results are still long.

Dr. Clayton Kazan, medical director for the county department, said officials are launching mobile testing sites at High Desert Medical Group office in Lancaster, Glendale Memorial Hospital and Northridge Medical Center.

About 1,500 tests per day are being done in L.A. County right now, Kazan said, adding that the goal is to get to 10,000 tests per day. He wouldn’t give a date on when the 10,000 goal would be achieved.

Ferrer highlighted new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on “close contact” after someone has tested positive for coronavirus.

If you have had contact with a positive or presumed positive person within 48 hours of the person having symptoms, you need to self-quarantine,” Ferrer said, referring to the new CDC guidelines.

She said the stricter guidelines are based on emerging science that suggests some are infecting others before they become symptomatic.

“There, in fact, is the possibility for people to infect other people before they show any signs of symptoms,” the director said.

Ferrer had previously anticipated that the number of cases locally will continue to grow, and called this week important to seeing the trajectory of the virus in the county. Later in the week, her department plans to issue a projection for when the virus will peak.

Cases in California have reached 8,254, with 174 deaths as of Tuesday evening.

Across the nation, 163,539 people have tested positive for COVID-19, while 2,860 have died, according to the CDC.

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