Despite the apparent slowdown in the number of COVID-19 cases in several areas within California, the outbreak in Los Angeles County is showing no signs of letting up after public health officials confirmed an additional 59 deaths across the region.
This update brings the county’s total number of coronavirus-related deaths to 1,004.
According to public health officials, the cases recorded in the county now make up 45 percent of total cases and the majority of hospitalizations within the state.
“L.A. County has hit the tragic milestone of 1,000 people dying from COVID-19. Please know that if you are grieving the loss of loved ones who have died from COVID-19, our thoughts and prayers are with you, your family, and your friends,” county public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.
Aside from the new mortalities they recorded, Ferrer also announced an additional 597 confirmed cases, bringing the county’s total number of infected individuals to 21,017.
According to an analysis of coronavirus data, the number of deaths in L.A. County translates to a rate of 9.3 deaths per 100,000 people, which is 58% higher than that of the next hardest hit urban county, Riverside. The same analysis also noted that L.A. County’s rate is 72% higher than that of Santa Clara County, which is regarded as the Bay Area’s coronavirus epicenter.
These rising numbers, public health officials said, underscore the need for people to stay indoors as much as possible.
“Because we are still seeing a significant increase in new cases and deaths, we ask that you continue to stay home as much as possible,” Ferrer said.
Further analysis of the L.A. County data, however, revealed several sobering points.
According to data furnished by the county public health officials, black people still have the highest COVID-19 death rate in L.A. County, a rate currently pegged at 13 deaths per 100,000 people. Latino, Asian, and white populations, on the other hand, notched rates of 9.5, 7.5 and 5.5 deaths per 100,000 people, respectively.
In addition, official data also revealed that those who live in lower-income communities within L.A. County are roughly three times more likely to die of COVID-19 than those who reside in much wealthier communities.
According to the figures presented by public health officials, neighborhoods, where 30% to 100% of the residents live in poverty, had about 16.5 deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 5.3 deaths per 100,000 in communities in which less than 10% of residents live in poverty.
According to Ferrer, the data surrounding the county’s disproportionate coronavirus mortalities is a “reminder” of the work that still needs to be done, as well as the issues that need to be addressed to help and protect the more vulnerable members of the population.
“Ensuring access to testing, early treatment and care, and economic support among those communities at higher risk of devastating outcomes associated with COVID-19 is essential,” Ferrer noted.
In a statement released Friday, county authorities said they are not yet keen on easing restrictions, noting that they do not want to undo any developments accomplished so far regarding the pandemic.
“We are not yet on the other side of this pandemic, and we don’t want to prematurely ease restrictions,” County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said.
For the county to ease restrictions, Barger said, the county will first need to make sure that its hospitals are adequately staffed and that they have enough resources to perform testing. In addition, they must also have a sufficient number of ventilators and other medical supplies to handle routine care as well as possible influxes of new COVID-19 patients. (Related: More people have died from coronavirus than the official numbers suggest, NYT claims)
Second, Barger said, the county must ensure that there are protections in place for the most vulnerable in the community, such as the elderly, the homeless people and those who live in institutional settings. Barger added that provisions must be put in place for those who do not have access to health services.
Third, the county must have the capacity to test, isolate and quarantine all those who are infected with the coronavirus, as well as to conduct surveillance to prevent its further spread.
Lastly, Barger said, the county must maintain physical distancing and infection control measures. According to Barger, businesses will be provided with educational materials and guidance to ensure that the social distancing rules can be followed once they reopen.
Due to bottlenecks in testing and lags in data reporting, however, experts say the true number of infected individuals in the county remains unknown, although it is likely to be much higher than the ones presented in official tallies.