L.A. County at 'catastrophic' COVID-19 levels, with 13,815 new cases, more than 500,000 total

The COVID-19 crisis hit what Los Angeles County officials called “uncharted territory” Friday, as the daily case count surged dramatically to 13,815 and total cases topped 500,000, the latest signs that the virus is spreading with ferocious speed.

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“We’re on a very dangerous track to see unprecedented and catastrophic suffering,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “At this point, we’re seeing daily numbers of cases and hospitalizations that we’ve not experienced and, frankly, did not anticipate.”

The surge in cases is causing hospitals to see a run on patients and some intensive care units to reach capacity. As of Thursday, there were 3,850 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including 856 in ICU beds — both records.

The number of people hospitalized in L.A. County with coronavirus infections has doubled since Thanksgiving and quadrupled in the last month, when there were 942 coronavirus-infected patients in L.A. County hospitals on Nov. 11.


Officials fear the situation will only worsen as more people who may have been exposed to the virus during the Thanksgiving holiday become sick. There is still hope that a new stay-at-home order will eventually make a difference, but that will take weeks before any difference is seen.

The illness is clearly spreading into an array of communities like never before.

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L.A. County officials this week released data showing big jumps in coronavirus cases in dozens of communities in the San Gabriel Valley, the South Bay, the Westside and central Los Angeles. Communities that saw a more than 200% increase in coronavirus cases between late September and late November include Silver Lake, Claremont, Rosemead, San Gabriel, South El Monte, Hawthorne, Palms, Westchester, Lennox and parts of South Los Angeles.


At this point, Ferrer said, “it’s not a question of if we’ll see a large increase of hospitalizations and deaths,” but a question of how severe the numbers will get.

“We cannot undo what’s already been done, and collectively, we’re going to all pay a very high price for the actions we were taking in the past,” she said.

The unfortunate reality, she said, is that “what we’re seeing today is not the worst that we’re going to experience.”

“I think the issue right now is this is what we would call the Thanksgiving surge … now we have a surge on top of a surge,” she said. “And it’s really hard for us to calculate exactly what we’re going to see over the next week or two.”


Moving forward, she said, all residents must take steps to protect themselves from infection — including staying home as much as possible and avoiding mixing with those they do not live with.

“Make the choice today and every day throughout December that you’re going to protect yourself, you’re going to protect your friends and loved ones and you’re going to protect the friends and loved ones of other people,” Ferrer said.

It’s too early to consider additional restrictions on businesses and activities on top of what’s already in place countywide, the health director said. The focus at this point is urging people to follow the rules that are already in place.

“I think what we have right now would work if we had almost everybody doing it. I think it will slow the surge,” she said. “We just need everyone to start doing what they need to be doing.”

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