Number of coronavirus deaths in L.A. County climbs to 1,793

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The number of coronavirus-related deaths climbed to 1,793 in Los Angeles County Saturday.

The L.A. County Department of Public Health reported 40 new COVID-19 deaths and another 1,073 people who have tested positive for the virus, bringing the county’s total to 37,303 cases.

The majority of those who died most recently were over age 65, and most had underlying health conditions. So far, 92% of all L.A. County residents who have died of COVID-19 have had underlying health conditions, according to the health department.

The department is tracking percent change in seven-day periods for the number of  COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations, bed and ventilator capacities across the county, supplies of personal protective equipment for health care workers and testing capacity.

These metrics will help guide decisions on reopening the county, the county’s public health director Barbara Ferrer has said.

Here’s where L.A. County stands:

While the seven-day average number of COVID-19 deaths overall has not increased over the past 14 days, the data shows it has increased among African Americans and in areas where 20% to 30% of the population live below the poverty line.

Black residents have died of COVID-19 at a disproportionately higher rate than residents of other races, with a mortality rate of 18 deaths for every 100,000 people.

Despite earlier predictions, local hospitals have been able to operate below capacity amid the pandemic. And the hospitalization rate for COVID-19 has remained steady in L.A. County in recent weeks.

There were 1,648 people hospitalized for the respiratory illness across the county’s hospitals on Saturday, 26% of them in intensive care units and 20% on ventilators. A total of 5,784 people had been hospitalized for COVID-19 in the county so far.

Hospitals nationwide have grappled with shortages of personal protective equipment, leaving state officials scrambling to buy more.

In L.A. County, the goal is to have at least 60% of hospitals stocked up on at least 15 days worth of protective equipment.

And while the county is on track with masks, goggles and face shields, hospitals were short on supplies of gloves and gowns this week, according the health department.

The county is also behind on ramping up testing, according to the department’s data.

The goal is to test at least 15,000 people a day for the coronavirus, but the county tested 11,404 people per day this past week.

The good news: Although cases continue to increase by the hundreds each day, Ferrer said Friday that the rate of spread of the virus is down. In the beginning of the pandemic in L.A. County, each infected person spread the coronavirus to three others on average. Now, one person is infected per infected person.

Residents in recent weeks saw certain business and recreation areas reopen — all with strict social distancing and public safety restrictions.

Most beaches, trails and parks were open for active use during the weekend, and certain retailers have been allowed to open for curbside pickups and deliveries.

Officials have said that a full reopening likely won’t come before a coronavirus vaccine is ready.

“The production of a safe and effective vaccine, we don’t really know how long that will take,” Ferrer told KTLA. “We appreciate everyone’s making a good effort to in fact have this done as quickly as possible, but you know safety and efficacy are going to have to be established in order for that vaccine to be useful.”

Until then, Ferrer said residents need to adhere to public safety guidelines like donning masks in public and keeping at least 6 feet away from others.

“There’s a long incubation period for this virus, it can take as many as 14 days for people who have been exposed to in fact become infected, and for that to actually be reflected on a test,” Ferrer said. “So I think the best advice is, assume that you could be infected and assume that other people could be infected.”

“These actions work – they protect you, they protect others, and they save lives,” Ferrer said in a written statement.

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