LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Health officials Monday announced another 18 more coronavirus deaths and 477 cases in L.A. County just after California Gov. Gavin Newsom reported that the state’s lockdown orders could be loosened considerably within the next few weeks thanks to a significant decrease in hospitalizations statewide.

L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer reported that more than 350,000 people in the county have now been tested for coronavirus, with the number of positive cases dropping to 9%. Testing is free to anyone in L.A. County who wants it. No symptoms are required to obtain a test.

“As many more people who are not sick are being tested, the rate of positivity has dropped from 14% to 9%,” Ferrer said.

There are now at least 38,451 coronavirus cases in L.A. County and a death toll of 1,839.

Ferrer reported that the number of people hospitalized with coronavirus continues to decrease. There are 1,570 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in L.A. County. Of those 27% are in ICUs and 20% are on ventilators.

“We do continue, here again, to see some small decreases in the number of people who are hospitalized,” Ferrer said.

Furthermore, of the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 so far, 15% have required hospitalization.

“And again, that rate has dropped steadily the last two weeks,” she added.

Ferrer disclosed that 955 residents of L.A. County’s institutional settings have died of coronavirus, the vast majority of which lived in nursing homes. That accounts for 52% of all coronavirus deaths.

There have been a total of 9,909 cases in institutional settings so far. Institutional settings include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, jails, prisons, homeless shelters, treatment centers and supportive living facilities.

Testing efforts at nursing homes have ramped up in recent weeks, as officials seek to test everyone at nursing homes, both staff and residents, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms. So far, 141 nursing homes have tested all their residents and staff, Ferrer said Monday.

Meanwhile, Ferrer also provided an update on a new inflammatory condition in children which is linked to coronavirus. Four children in L.A. County who have been diagnosed with Pediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome (PIMS) have also tested positive for carrying coronavirus antibodies.

There are an additional 21 cases of PIMS identified since March 1 which could be linked to coronavirus, but have not been confirmed.

Three of the 25 children have required admission to a pediatric ICU. There have been no fatalities.

PIMS is a condition which displays similar symptoms to Kawasaki disease, a very rare condition among young children in which the blood vessels become inflamed and arteries become abnormally dilated.

It was first reported at hospitals in the United Kingdom and New York City. Symptoms include abdominal pain, redness in the eyes, enlarged lymph nodes on one side of the neck, high fever, cracked lips or a red tongue that looks like a strawberry, rashes and swollen hands and feet.

Treatment is similar to treatment for Kawasaki disease, which involves plasma transfusions to reduce the body’s immune response which is causing the inflammation. The goal is to reduce inflammation and prevent long-term damage to arteries.

“We will continue to work closely with the CDC and the California Department of Public Health to conduct surveillance and to better understand this syndrome,” Ferrer said.

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