With 40 new deaths reported Tuesday, Los Angeles County saw its largest single-day jump in coronavirus fatalities, and for the first time saw the overall case count top 10,000.
“This is tragically, the highest number of deaths that I’ve had to report for any single day,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, said. “I know that this represents lives that have been lived, with close families and friends who are now mourning this terrible loss.”
Over the last 48 hours, 909 new cases of COVID-19 were reported, Ferrer said.
The jump in deaths — to 360 total — comes just one day after the county reported the lowest daily count of new cases in more than two weeks. But Ferrer had noted that because testing is limited over the weekend, the number of cases was likely going to keep increasing. It was at 10,047 Tuesday.
The mortality rate in the county also continued to rise and is now at 3.6%, Ferrer said.
Of the new deaths reported Tuesday, 25 were patients over 65, 17 of which had underlying conditions. Nine of the people who died were between 41 and 65, and of those, five had underlying health conditions, Ferrer detailed.
The county has race and ethnicity information for 292 people who have died: Of those, 16% were African American, 17% were Asian, 34% were Latinx, 32% were white and 2% identified as other.
Over 63,000 people have been tested countywide, 11% of which have been positive.
Of those with coronavirus, 2,517 people at some point were hospitalized — 25% of all positive cases. More than 1,400 people are currently hospitalized, 33% of which are in intensive care and 20% are on ventilators.
Ferrer noted that testing capacity continues to increase countywide, and that the total number of people tested increased by 10,000 on Monday.
“We’ve now included most of the negative results we were delayed in getting,” Ferrer said.
Despite that increase, however, Ferrer said that testing is still limited to people who are symptomatic.
The county is investigating 199 institutional settings with at least one confirmed cases of COVID-19; 13 were added to that list Monday, Ferrer noted.
There have been a total of 1,596 positive cases among people in these facilities, most of them being residents. In total, 109 residents have died after living in an institutional setting — including in skilled nursing homes and assisted living facilities — and they represent 31% of all deaths in the county, Ferrer said.
“We continue to see an alarming increase in the number of cases among residents and staff at our institutional settings,” the director said.
There are now 64 cases of COVID-19 in the county’s jails: 11 among inmates and 53 among staff.
Additionally, there are 29 positive cases in local state prisons, mostly among inmates, and four cases in juvenile detention facilities, all among staff. Ferrer said.
Ricardo Garcia, the county’s public defender, said Tuesday that while 3,500 inmates have been released countywide amid the pandemic, more needs to be done to protect those who are incarcerated.
“Right now, thousands of people are trapped in close quarters with no ability to take precautions in order to protect themselves,” Garcia said.
He has asked juvenile courts to accelerate hearings, and a task force was created to build a pathway for those released back into community. Garcia also said he is working with immigration units around Los Angeles to protect people’s rights regardless of immigration status.
As Gov. Gavin Newsom detailed goals that must be met before California begins lifting its stay-at-home order, Ferrer also discussed what needs to be done to ensure that new COVID-19 cases don’t overwhelm L.A. County’s health care system when businesses start to reopen locally.
“The goal of getting people back to work in a safe matter is paramount, but we need to make sure as we do this, we don’t cause a huge increase in cases, forcing us to order massive closures again,” she said.
The county will be working with various business sectors over the next few weeks to outline how workers and customers alike can stay safe when orders are relaxed, Ferrer said.
Ferrer said that the county needs to make sure that it can care for those who are sick and provide preventative care for all residents.
She added that it is crucial that officials can protect those who are most vulnerable to serious illness and death from COVID-19. That includes people living in nursing homes and assisted living communities, homeless people and those who live in communities that are underserved, have less access to heath care and have higher rates of underlying health conditions.
In addition, there needs to be more widespread access to testing and the ability for people to safely self-isolate or self-quarantine if need be.
Finally, Ferrer said plans need to be in place to allow residents to continue physical distancing and to ensure that the public stays safe.
“We’re not yet on the other side of this pandemic. We’ve all worked together amidst many difficulties and challenges to find ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Ferrer said. “But we’re going to need to keep up our efforts to avoid a surge in cases that will overwhelm our hospitals. We don’t want to lose ground.”