LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – County health officials Thursday attributed a sharp rise in the coronavirus death toll to a significant increase in testing and test result backlogs.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, head of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, reported nine new deaths over the past 24 hours and 421 new cases, many of which she said was the result of additional testing and “catching up” on delayed test results.

But Ferrer continued to emphasize adhering to social distancing, isolation and quarantine requirements, saying the virus is making an aggressive march across the county,

West Hollywood resident Jason Gray recently tested positive, and he shared some of his symptoms with CBSLA’s Leslie Marin.

“It was weird. I couldn’t smell or taste anything for like a week,” he said. “I had a fever and some cough and a little wheezing when I breathed.”

The 31-year-old said he quickly found out that some of his friends contracted the virus around the same time he did — a testament to how contagious doctors believe the virus is.

Ferrer also stressed how widely the virus can spread without proper social distancing tactics Thursday.

“If there are a thousand people that are positive and each one of this people infects 2 other people…if we don’t curtail that spread, within a few weeks there could be a million people infected within L.A. County,” Ferrer said.

The county’s total of 21 deaths does not include a 17-year-old Lancaster boy who was reported earlier this week to have died from the coronavirus. County health officials said the boy’s death is under further review by the U.S. Centers Disease Control and Prevention.

Another death that was reported earlier has also been removed from the county’s total, because authorities determined the person actually lives in a different county.

Residents across L.A. County — and the entire state — are under strict stay-at-home orders asking that people remain in their residence as much as possible, while avoiding any large gatherings.

Meanwhile, the county is preparing for a surge in patients. The Los Angeles Convention Center is preparing to turn into a quarantine center. The entire property will be used to isolate suspected patients, house the homeless, and offer testing.

No date has been announced for when the convention center will begin taking patients, but officials said equipment could begin arriving as early as Saturday.

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