LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The number of deaths from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County has now hit 1,000, officials announced Tuesday.

Volunteers help load food into vehicles arriving at a Los Angeles Regional Food Bank drive-thru giveaway in Pico Rivera, Calif., on April 28, 2020. (Getty Images)

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L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer reported Tuesday that 597 people tested positive for coronavirus over the past 24 hours, and 59 more people died from the disease.

It brings the number of cases in the county to 20,976, with 1,000 total deaths.

Ferrer said 92% of those who have died had underlying conditions.

But Ferrer said, like Gov. Gavin Newsom, she was optimistic that the county could start seeing mandates relaxed in the coming weeks.

“We know that we’re headed into recovery,” she said. “We’re hoping that, you know, that happens sometime in the middle of May, that’s our best guess right now.”

Meanwhile, 462 of those who have died resided in institutional settings, the vast majority of which lived in nursing homes. Those deaths account for 46% of all L.A. County coronavirus deaths.

“With over 400 deaths occurring among nursing home residents, the pandemic has amplified the cracks in our society, including the protection of people who are older and medically fragile,” Ferrer said in a statement.

There are 4,488 coronavirus cases at 333 institutional settings, which include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, jails, prisons, homeless shelters, treatment centers and supporting living facilities.

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“We need to accelerate our ability to identify and isolate symptomatic, as we as asymptomatic, residents and staff, and quarantine those who are close contacts” she added.

Last week, L.A. County announced it was barring visitors from nursing homes and all other institutional settings. Only essential workers would be admitted.

Ferrer noted Monday that officials were initially slow to act in containing the outbreak at nursing homes because they did not know that COVID-19 could be spread by people who were infected but were asymptomatic.

“Now that we do know, our strategy is to offer testing to all residents and staff at skilled nursing facilities,” she said. “And we’re working closely with the department of health services to ensure adequate testing kits and capacity for specimen collection at the nursing homes.”

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to ask the state to strengthen protections for residents and workers at nursing homes. The motion calls for additional pay, overtime and sick leave for nursing home employees during the crisis and paying a higher rate to workers caring for residents who have tested positive for the virus, among other measures.

It also recommends that skilled nursing homes be required to re-admit patients once they are no longer acutely ill with the coronavirus.

All of these measures must be supported by state officials who license such facilities.

Separately, county health officials have expanded coronavirus testing to include all residents and staff at nursing homes with outbreaks, regardless of whether they show any symptoms. County workers are also conducting “surveillance testing” at centers without any positive cases.

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