L.A. County sees highest COVID-19 hospitalization rates ever as part of ‘alarming and dangerous phase,’ official says

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Los Angeles County is seeing its highest rates of coronavirus-related hospitalizations since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the county’s health director revealed Wednesday.

Currently, 2,193 people infected with coronavirus are being hospitalized — more than on any other single day during the pandemic, County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. The number of COVID-19 patients being treated inside intensive care units is also at its highest level ever.

“We are in an alarming and dangerous phase in this pandemic here in L.A. County,” Ferrer said.

The county reported another 2,758 infections and 44 deaths Wednesday, a day after health officials reported 73 deaths, which is one of the highest single-day jumps in fatalities.

“To put that in perspective, the most deaths we ever reported in a single day is 76,” Ferrer said. “That was back in May, when we unfortunately had so many residents in our nursing homes that were passing away.”

More than 143,000 people have been infected and over 3,900 patients have died of the virus, according to county data. Among the 2,193 patients hospitalized as of Wednesday, 26% are being treated in the intensive care unit and 17% are using ventilators, health officials said.

Ferrer said the spikes in hospitalization rates and climbing cases serve as “evidence … we should probably expect to see an increase in deaths in the coming days and weeks.”

Since Memorial Day weekend, younger adults in the county are getting infected at higher rates than previously — a trend reflected in the number of them hospitalized for the virus, Ferrer said.

“These alarming trends reflect behaviors from three weeks ago,” she said.

Younger adults make up an increasing share of people testing positive in recent weeks, according to Ferrer. Patients between the ages of 18 and 40 are also being hospitalized at a “significantly higher rate” of nearly 30%, she said.

Earlier in the summer, the county had managed to actually slow down the virus’ spread following widespread lockdowns that first took hold in mid-March. That also meant a reduction in hospitalizations as less cases surfaced.

But that has since changed, and Ferrer said “the shift from declining rates to increasing rates happened very rapidly.” Still, some residents are facing a greater impact; for one, lower-income L.A. communities face a higher risk of infection, Ferrer said.

The virus is taking a harsher toll on local Latino and Black communities.

According to Ferrer, Latino residents in Los Angeles County are twice as likely to be infected and twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as white residents. Black residents are 25% more likely to be infected than white residents and almost twice as likely to die, Ferrer said.

The seven-day average for new cases was 1,452 in the beginning of June, Ferrer said. Currently, the county is seeing an average of 2,859 new infections a day, nearly doubling since then.

Ferrer has called on residents to “please stay home as much as possible” as the rate of infection rises.

“Keeping businesses open is only possible if we can get back to slowing the spread,” she said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered restrictions be put back in place in L.A. and 29 other counties, including all of Southern California. That order mandates the closure of indoor bars, restaurants, gyms and houses of worship in affected counties. Some cities such as Pasadena have closed streets to make way for outdoor dining.

On Tuesday, California broke its record for the most reported infections in a single day, according to the Los Angeles Times tracker.

Correction: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect percentage when describing the increase in cases for seven-day averages. The story has been updated.

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