LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Los Angeles County reported 36 more coronavirus-related deaths on Friday, bringing the death toll to 2,565.
Another 1,445 confirmed cases were also announced. The overall total is 61,045.READ MORE: 'Gentle And Generous Soul': Bruno, LA Zoo's 42-Year-Old Orangutan, Dies Suddenly
County health and elected officials warned that the recent uptick in transmission rates of COVID-19 could result in a lack of a sufficient number of ICU beds soon, if it continues.
“It’s important that we continue to expand our access to testing,” said public health chief Dr. Barbara Ferrer. “As long as we are testing a lot of people…we should expect to see our case numbers go up.”
Ferrer said the higher number of cases isn’t necessarily bad, because it allows healthcare workers to trace contacts and advise anyone who might contribute to the spread to self-isolate.
So far, about 4.5 percent of those getting tested for coronavirus are testing positive, she said.
Ferrer also reminded residents with underlying health conditions — who currently make up 94 percent of virus-related deaths — to stay home, even as more businesses begin to open.
The county also released data on the race and ethnicity of those impacted by the virus, which indicates higher death rates among black residents and those who live in poverty.
Although Latino residents make up 41 percent of the total coronavirus-related deaths in L.A. County, the death rate among Latinos is 29 per 100,000 people, which is lower than the 31 per 100,000 people for black residents. Both are much higher rates than the 15 per 100,000 white residents.
Asian residents are dying at a rate of 21 per 100,000, while Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are experiencing a death rate of 30 per 100,000 people.
Health officials also noted that poverty plays a significant role in the death rates.
“We see that people who live in areas with high rates of poverty have almost four times the rate of death for COVID-19,” Ferrer said.
Based on a model that considers how many people would have died if all races and ethnicities were dying at the same rate as those with the lowest rate — white residents — officials were able to calculate the number of “excess deaths” the county has experienced.
“It paints a very disturbing picture,” Ferrer said. “If the death rate for all groups were the same as it is for white residents, who have the lowest death rate, we would have 754 fewer deaths.”
Of the hypothetical “excess deaths,” 480 represent Latino residents, 143 represent black residents and 125 represent Asian residents.
“These results are absolutely devastating and represent real people whose lives have been lost,” Ferrer said. “They also starkly show how inequities have a life and death consequence.”
Ferrer said the county is working to increase resources for these under-served communities, including expanding testing sites. The county plans to have 73 facilities countywide.READ MORE: CHiPs For Kids Toy Drive Kicks Off For 2021
“The very real impact of the injustices plays out every day with the news I share with you and amplifies why racism is a public health issue,” Ferrer said. “The disproportionately higher number of deaths from COVID-19 among black and brown people is an indication of the impact of racism and discrimination on health and well-being.
“It starts at the beginning of life when black babies are three to four more times likely to die before they reach their first birthday and at the very end of life when black residents die, on average, six to 10 years younger than all others,” Ferrer continued. “We must look at the root at the structures, systems and practices in our society to understand the root cause of these inequities.”
At the beginning of Friday’s coronavirus news briefing, Supervisor Hilda Solis said that “unabated and unaccountable police violence” represents a second health crisis in the county.
“We’ve seen another public health crisis highlighted. According to the (American) Public Health Association, addressing law enforcement violence should be a public health priority,” Solis said. “The root cause of health inequities, especially during the pandemic, is systemic racism and discrimination.”
Largely peaceful protests against police brutality — sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis — continued across the Southland on Friday for the tenth day in a row. Ferrer urged anyone participating to take steps to avoid infecting others, including self-isolating if they believe they’ve been exposed.
Anyone who has been in close contact with people not wearing face coverings for 15 minutes or more should isolate for 14 days, Ferrer said.
“Please remember that this virus has a long incubation period and it will be important for you to remain away from others for as much as possible for the next 14 days,” Ferrer said. “If you do get tested right away after you think you’ve had an exposure, you’re likely to test negative because your viral load will be too low to be detected.”
The protests, which have remained largely peaceful since Sunday, are not officials’ only concern. As businesses reopening, including dine-in services and hair salons, cases could rise.
Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the Department of Health Services, said the rate of transmission of COVID-19 has slightly increased.
“While we don’t know precisely yet how reopening and the recovery activities will affect transmission of COVID-19, (the rate) does seem to be greater than (one-to-one) and slightly uptrending,” Ghaly said.
If that trend continues, there will no longer be enough ICU beds in the county soon, she said.
“The number of ICU beds may become inadequate in two to four weeks based on the currently available number of beds,” she said. “DHS…is watching this availability of ICU beds very closely.”
Ghaly also said the rate of testing is now proportionate among residents of color, based on the expansion of testing sites.
She urged everyone to remember to continue to take all precautions possible to slow the spread of the virus.
“There are ways to maintain (good public health) practices even as we reenter society and get people back to work,” Ghaly said. “Please continue to do everything you can to follow these core public health practices. Your actions, my actions have an impact not just on our own health but the health of all of those around us…We are all in this together.”MORE NEWS: Several Small Burbank Shops Targeted In Early Morning Burglary Spree
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