By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Tuesday reported 11,994 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and 288 new deaths, bringing countywide totals to 944,319 cases and 12,674 deaths.

Paramedics Jan. 7 bring a patient into the Adventist Health-White Memorial Hospital Emergency in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

“Please do not underestimate this virus or let your drive to interact in person with friends outweigh following the safety measures that are put in place to save lives,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, public health director, said. “Like many residents, I am cheering for the Rams in the playoffs and grateful to be able to watch basketball games again, but we cannot make the same mistakes we did last year. There were far too many gatherings, viewing parties, and celebrations with others that contributed to increased cases; the outcome will be disastrous to our healthcare system if we don’t follow the rules.”

Of the 288 new deaths reported, 100 people were over the age of 80, 106 people were between the ages of 65 and 79, 61 people were between the ages of 50 and 64, 17 people were between the age of 30 and 49 and two people were between the ages of 18 and 29.

Over the last seven days, 1,606 deaths due to COVID-19 have been reported, an average of 230 per day.

On Tuesday, there were 7,926 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, 22% of whom were being treated in intensive care units.

Health officials said while the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has stabilized over the past few days at slightly under 8,000 patients, the demand on the local healthcare system and hospitals remained overwhelming.

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At Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in South L.A., more than 200 patients were being treated in the medical facility that normally only has 131 beds. To accommodate the surge, beds have been staged in hallways, the prayer room and what used to be a gift shop.

“We have had the misfortune of seeing this disease run through families and, all too frequently, take multiple members of a single family,” Dr. Jason Prasso, the hospital’s pulmonologist, said. “We’re running like well over 100% capacity.”

But the light at the end of the tunnel, the two approved COVID-19 vaccines, are simply not being administered fast enough. While the state has received 2.5 million doses, it has only used a third of them.

“We are flying a plan while building it,” Dr. Oliver Brooks, chief medical officer at Watts Healthcare Corporation, said.

Brooks, who sits on the state’s Vaccine Advisory Committee, said that while people would normally go to hospitals to get vaccinated, the surge has made doing that difficult, though he believes that new massive vaccination sites will help increase the number of people inoculated.

Health officials said from Jan. 3 through Jan. 11, a total of 83 citations were issued to businesses including restaurants, gyms, personal care salons, hair salons/barbershops, places of worship and shopping malls for noncompliance with local health orders.

Since August, the health department has issued a total of 613 citations that can carry fines of up to $1,000 per occurrence. A list of non-compliant businesses that have received citations can be found online.

With testing results available for nearly 5,048,000 residents, the county’s overall positivity rate was 18%.