By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Thursday reported 19,719 new COVID-19 cases and 218 additional fatalities, bringing countywide totals to 871,404 cases and 11,545 deaths.

An emergency medical technician Jan. 6 directs an ambulance outside the emergency room of the East Los Angeles Doctors Hospital. (Photo by Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“There are just too many people spreading the virus, too many people sick and hospitalized and each person that dies is one too many,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, county public health director, said.

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Health officials also announced there were 8,098 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, 20% of whom were being treated in intensive care units. Since Jan. 3, the number of patients hospitalized has increased by more than 550 people.

At Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, a team of combat medics were sent by the U.S. Department of Defense.

A second team will arrive at Los Angeles County+USC later this week where staff is slammed by the number of patients and seems to face a new supply shortage daily.

“We’re running low on water,” Brad Spellberg, County+USC chief medical officer, said. “Sterile water is needed for specific type of ventilation, for people on breathing machines.”

New rules were also issued for Los Angeles city paramedics who have often had to wait eight hours at hospitals to unload their sick patients. The new rules will allow paramedics to unload their patients immediately into tents where one person will watch over them until a bed or care is available.

Also on Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration said tests provided by the company Curative carry of risk of false negative results and should be used only on people with symptoms.

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The city of Los Angeles uses the test at 10 of its sites, including Dodger Stadium, a practice Mayor Eric Garcetti defended.

“A full third of the tests we’ve done have been from asymptomatic people,” he said. “That’s 92,000 that otherwise might not have known, might have been spreading.”

L.A. County reportedly stopped using the Curative tests back in June, and Curative said it was working with the FDA, though the company noted that each test is labeled with specific warnings at limitations.

Officials also called on businesses to implement all safety measures and business protocols to prevent COVID-19 transmission among staff, customers and residents.

“Everyone in L.A. County, businesses and residents, needs to follow the rules if there is any chance we can get out of this surge by the end of the month,” Ferrer said. “Every day we report a large number of people newly infected with COVID-19, it is like a reset on the clock for when we can get back to our recovery journey.”

Between Dec. 6, 2020 and Jan. 3, the health department issued a total of 143 citations for businesses for not being in compliance with local health orders. Among those businesses cited were restaurants, gyms, personal care salons, hair salons/barbershops, places of worship and shopping malls.

Since the end of August, a total of 526 citations have been issued, the department said.

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With testing results available for nearly 4,890,000 individuals, the county’s overall positivity rate was 17%. The daily test positivity rate Thursday was 20.4%.