LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Acknowledging the coronavirus pandemic in Los Angeles is at an “alarming and dangerous phase,” the county’s health director said Wednesday the total number of deaths and infections reached record levels.
The total number of cases in Los Angeles County crossed the 143,000 mark Wednesday, even as health officials said the death rate has steadily declined.
The county announced another 2,758 cases and 44 deaths and said it plans to expand coronavirus testing capacity by 65% in the coming weeks.
The testing expansion will focus on under-served “hot-spot” areas of infections, including Montebello, South Gate, Panorama City, Downey, Norwalk and Compton.
Existing testing sites will also be expanding in areas such as Bellflower, Pomona, El Monte and East Los Angeles, according to officials.
“We are in an alarming and dangerous phase in this pandemic here in L.A. County and we’re in this place along with 29 other counties across the state,” county public health director Barbara Ferrer said. “These alarming trends reflect behaviors from three weeks ago, and it will take several weeks to see if our behavior now, including the rollback of previously opened sectors, slows the spread of the virus. What we do today impacts our lives in the weeks and the months ahead.”
And on Wednesday, Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center’s chief medical officer said the relentless rise in cases could mean a lack of beds for COVID-19 patients if it continues.
“Cases have been steadily rising week by week by week,” Dr. Brad Spellberg said. “It’s a slow, steady relentless rise. It’s like the waters rising above, and they’re really at the top of the levy now, and our ICU’s across the county are heavily impacted. Our ICU is very impacted, we’ve had more COVID-positive cases than any hospital in L.A. County.”
Spellberg said the hospital had 50 COVID-19 patients in April and staff thought they were going to be overwhelmed.
“Here we are two months, three months later, and we have double the amount,” he said. “And we are holding strong.”
And, Ferrer said, the only way to make sure area hospitals are not overwhelmed with a crush of new coronavirus patients was to stay home.
“Even though we all miss summer barbecues, pool parties and other fun and normal things we would be doing on a hot summers day in July, it still isn’t safe or smart to return to seeing friends and family that you don’t live with,” she said.
The county saw its largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in a single day on Tuesday, with more than 4,200 additional cases reported. Nine percent of people tested in the county are positive for the virus, higher than the state’s rate of 7%.
The daily average number of deaths declined since the week of June 20 through July 4, at which point the seven-day average appeared to be flattening out at nearly 30 deaths daily.
During his COVID-19 update Monday, Mayor Eric Garcetti said that the city was close to raising its COVID-19 emergency status from “orange” to “red,” which the mayor says means people would be asked to only leave their homes for essential goods and travel to work.
Ferrer said the county would continue to monitor the numbers and, if they continue to rise over the coming weeks, the county could be facing some frightening choices.