LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Nearly half of all coronavirus deaths in Los Angeles County have been residents of skilled nursing facilities, officials reported Thursday.

People sell paper products and other hygienic items from the back of their truck, behind a fruit stand in Central L.A. on April 29, 2020, in Los Angeles. (Getty Images)

There were 55 new coronavirus deaths and 733 new cases reported in the past 24 hours, L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer disclosed at a Thursday afternoon briefing.

It brought L.A. County’s total number of cases to 23,182, and its death toll from the disease to 1,111.

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

She also said that 525 residents of L.A. County “institutional settings” have died of coronavirus, the vast majority of which lived in skilled nursing facilities.

Residents of institutional settings account for 47% of all deaths in L.A. County.

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Institutional settings include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, jails, prisons, homeless shelters, treatment centers and supportive living facilities.

There have been 5,296 confirmed cases at L.A. County institutional settings. The increase in cases is due, in part, to a spike in testing at nursing homes.

“This week we started aggressive testing, and we’ll be able to test all of the staff and all of the residents at all of our skilled nursing facilities,” Ferrer said. “This will help identify, very quickly, all of the people who need to isolate or quarantine, even if they have no symptoms.”

There are currently 307 institutional settings under investigation by DPH because they have at least one coronavirus case. That’s a slight dip from Wednesday because some facilities no longer have positive cases, Ferrer said. An investigation is closed 14 days after a facility’s last positive case.

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.”

Meanwhile, 1,962 people are currently hospitalized with coronavirus in L.A. County, 29% of whom are in ICUs and 19% on ventilators.

County officials also clarified a Wednesday night announcement made by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti about widespread testing for asymptomatic residents. All L.A. County residents can, in fact, get tested regardless of symptoms, but they will have to get tested at a site within the L.A. city limits.

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