Coronavirus: 25 new deaths, 425 cases in LA County, but hints arise that ‘curve’ may be flattening

Coronavirus: 25 new deaths, 425 cases in LA County, but hints arise that ‘curve’ may be flattening 1

Los Angeles County health officials shared grim news again on Thursday, April 9, announcing another 25 deaths related to the novel coronavirus — pushing the county’s total over 200 — and another 425 people who tested positive.

A total of 223 people have died in LA County since health officials started tracking the outbreak in early March and there have now been 7,955 confirmed cases, though many have recovered. Thursday’s tally did not include updated totals for two cities with their own health departments — Long Beach updated its totals to 303 cases and eight deaths and Pasadena increased its counts to 107 cases and five deaths.

The latest tally represents roughly 1,000 new cases in the past 48 hours, which is about the same rate of increase over the past week. Amid the heartbreaking news, county Health Director Barbara Ferrer said this may be a hopeful sign that the oft-described “curve” in LA County could be flattening.

“The data is encouraging,” Ferrer said. “We know all the sacrifices that everyone is making is in fact slowing the spread, but slowing the spread is a constant activity we have to do in the days to come. So we ask you to have some patience and continue to do what you are doing.”

The relative success did not make reporting the number of deaths each day any easier, Ferrer said. One person whose death was reported Thursday worked at a homeless shelter. Labs have confirmed 20 cases of COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness, four of which officials were investigating at shelters.

“Everyday I report these numbers knowing there are people who are grieving their loved ones who have passed away from COVID-19,” Ferrer said on Thursday. “We are deeply sorry.”

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Ferrer said county residents should still expect to sustain self-isolation and social-distancing measures for several more weeks.

The numbers Thursday came as the full picture of the economic impact was beginning to become clear — and more alarming. According to County Supervisor Kathryn Barger:

  • Unemployment claims have nearly quadrupled from the week prior, to roughly 880,000 applicants
  • Meals provided to seniors are up 70% from February to March. CalFresh, which provides food assistance, logged a 38% increase in March
  • Demand for CalWORKS for job assistance has increased by 32%
  • And the county’s rent stabilization unit has received 1,300 inquiries in the past two weeks.

“These are staggering and unprecedented numbers,” Barger said.

Los Angeles public health officials were winning praise this week nationwide for showing signs that social distancing measures, put in place relatively earlier than in places such as New York, could be having a noticeable impact in slowing the rate of new cases.

The number of cases at institutional settings, especially at nursing homes and assisted living facilities continued to increase. Cases have now been confirmed at 155 institutional settings, representing 24 more from the day before with 716 cases now between staff and residents. A total of 51 residents at senior homes have died, amounting to 23% of all deaths. Beginning Thursday afternoon the county will begin reporting the facilities that have at least three confirmed cases, which health officials consider an outbreak.

“The more cases of COVID-19 in our community, the more outbreaks we will see at institutional settings,” said Ferrer who stressed that the department has been working closely with management at each facility.

The number of people hospitalized continued to tick upward on Thursday. Now roughly 24% of those who tested positive have been hospitalized, Ferrer said.

“It’s a sharp reminder that many of the people in the hospital are very ill from COVID-19,” Ferrer said. “As we’ve noted before COVID-19 does in fact cause serious illness.”

Across the region, Orange County has reported 1,079 cases and 17 deaths, Riverside County 1,179 cases and 32 deaths and San Bernardino County 639 cases and 20 deaths.

Statewide, the number of new cases rose to 18,309 confirmed cases and 492 deaths. “These are not statistics,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom in his noontime briefing Thursday. “Behind every stat is a real person, a real family who have been torn apart.

As of Thursday, there were 1,032 people in intensive care units units, representing a drop of 1.9% from Wednesday and a rare bright spot since the outbreak in California began.

“One data point is not a trend,” Newsom said. “One data point is not a headline so I caution anyone to read too much into that. It’s one point of data but nonetheless it’s encouraging. It again reinforces the wonderful work we are all doing. The curve has bent in the state but it continues to be stretched.”

Hospitalizations in California increased by 4.1% to 2,825 individuals, and the state had close to 12,000 ventilators available, not including emergency stockpiles, with 32% being used as of Thursday, Newsom said.

Meanwhile, a crew member on board the USNS Mercy tested positive for COVID-19 raising new questions about the role that the mobile field hospital will play. So far, there are no plans announced to change its mission of caring for non-COVID-19 positive patients as a release valve for regional hospitals.

Since the Mercy arrived in the Port of Los Angeles on March 27, it has treated 30 patients. As of Wednesday, there were 12 patients still on the ship.

Lt. Andrew Bertucci, a Navy spokesman on board the Mercy, said the positive test won’t affect the Mercy’s ability to receive and treat patients

“The ship is following protocols and taking every precaution to ensure the health and safety of all crew members and patients on board,” Bertucci said. “The hospital ship follows infection control procedures, just as any civilian hospital ashore.”

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