By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Los Angeles County health officials Wednesday warned about increasing deaths in the weeks to come as COVID-19 cases continue to surge.

A person wearing a face mask and carrying a bag passes by a food pick up zone Dec. 8 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Valerie Macon/AFP-Getty)

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The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported 9,243 newly confirmed cases and 75 additional deaths, bringing countywide totals to 475,271 cases and 8,075 deaths.

“The more terrible truth is that over 8,000 people … over 8,000 people who were beloved members of their families are not coming back,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, county public health director, said. “Their deaths are an incalculable loss to their friends and their family, as well as our community.”

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Health officials also reported there were 3,299 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, 23% of whom were being treated in intensive care units and 15% of whom were on ventilators. According to officials, there were 1,096 hospital beds and 129 ICU bed available in the county.

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According to the state, the Southern California region’s adjusted ICU bed availability had dropped to 9%.

“And where we are headed in this pandemic, unfortunately, where we are and where we are headed is quite alarming,” Ferrer said.

Officials said that new treatment strategies were helping bring down mortality rates, but the increase in cases was taking a toll as hospitalizations are increasing by about 500 every day. Fourteen L.A. County hospitals have had to ask for help from the state, and 77% started diverting ambulances elsewhere due to overcrowding.

“Hospitals will have to implement their surge plans over the next four weeks,” Dr. Christina Ghaly, health services director, said.

With testing results available for nearly 3,985,000 people, the overall positivity rate was 11%, though health officials reported that the daily test positivity rate had increased significantly — from around 3.5% in early November to 12.5% Wednesday. It is now estimated that 1 in 100 people has COVID-19 in the county.

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And though COVID-19 cases continue to climb at a dangerous rate, California and L.A. County officials announced Wednesday that they would reverse course and allow playgrounds to reopen — though Ferrer reminded parents to continue to social distance and bring hand sanitizer.