LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Los Angeles County officials said Monday that, without a dramatic reversal in public behavior to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, deaths would continue to increase and a shortage of hospital beds could be seen in a matter of weeks.
The dire warning came as upward spikes in the number of cases and rate of spread continued.
On Monday, health officials reported a daily record of 2,903 newly confirmed cases and 22 deaths, bringing countywide totals to 100,772 total cases and 3,326 deaths.
“We can’t sustain this rate of increase on positive cases, we just can’t,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, county public health director, said. “Every day now, we’re contacting thousands and thousands of people to tell them that they need to isolate and quarantine, so this train can be a runaway train if we don’t put the breaks on it.”
The latest statistics compiled by local health officials estimate that, on average, one in every 140 people in L.A. County is infected with COVID-19 and capable of spreading it to others — likely without having any symptoms or knowledge that they have been infected.
Last week, that estimate was one in every 400 people.
“What this means is that Angelenos in the activities of daily living when they go out are very likely to be in the locations or near persons who are currently infectious, and in fact a large typical store is likely to have multiple infectious persons enter the shop every day,” Dr. Roger Lewis, who leads the county’s statistical modeling efforts, said.
Dr. Christina Ghaly, the county’s health services director, said that more than 1,700 people were hospitalized Monday with COVID-19, up from about 1,300 at the beginning of the month. If the trend continued, Ghaly said the county could quickly run out of beds in intensive care units — forcing hospitals to adjust operations to create additional ICU space.
“The rising patient volume in our hospitals will likely fill all of the intensive care unit beds that are currently available,” she said.
The impact of current infections will continue on the hospital for weeks to come, as people who have been infected start to show symptoms.
And Lewis said the problem will go beyond just ICU beds.
“The expected increase in hospitalizations, assuming the increase in (transmission rates) continues … suggest that we are at risk of running out of hospital beds if we don’t take steps to increase that capacity within the next two to three weeks,” he said.
The seven-day average of the daily positivity rate has increased from 5.8% two weeks ago to 8.4% as of Monday, with a single-day positivity rate of more than 9% as the number of people tested surpassed 1 million.
Health officials have pointed to a variety of issues that could have contributed to the spike, including businesses and offices reopening, people visiting with others outside their homes and mass protests against police brutality.
“We will see a lot more deaths if we can’t turn this around, so we do need everyone’s help,” she said.
She said residents needed to heed calls to leave home only for essentials, avoid contact with people outside their own household, wear face coverings and practice social distancing.
“At this point, if you’re not part of the solution to slowing the spread, you’re ending up being part of the problem,” Ferrer said.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)