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L.A. County COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations Soar Past Previous Records

Shopper wears face mask to purchase groceries. | Courtesy photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed the highest number of new COVID-19 cases that the county has ever experienced throughout the pandemic, confirming 7,593 new cases. The number of new cases surpassed the previous high of 6,124 new cases seen last week, and “signals that the virus is infecting more people at a faster rate than ever seen in L.A. County before,” according to a statement from Public Health. The daily test positivity rate Tuesday was almost 12%, up from 7% one week ago.

Earlier in the week, the county crossed another milestone in the pandemic, reporting more than 400,000 cumulative coronavirus cases on Monday and a record-breaking number of confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday.

L.A. county recorded 2,316 people in the hospital with coronavirus infections on Sunday, surpassing the previous record of 2,232 hospitalizations set on July 18. The daily number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has increased nearly every day since Nov. 1 when the daily number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 was 799.

Public health officials worry that increasing numbers in hospitalization could overwhelm the healthcare system, according to a statement released Monday afternoon.

“The increases we’re seeing now are not sustainable,” L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said Monday. “They’re not sustainable, because they’re gonna overwhelm not just our healthcare system, but the entire state’s healthcare system.”

The worry is not just about hospitals not having the capacity to treat COVID-19 patients, but that the system will be unable to treat patients in need of other types of medical care. Although the county currently has adequate capacity at hospitals and there are plans in place to manage the increases, a continued surge in cases and hospitalizations is “not sustainable,” according to a statement released by the health department.

Another concern is ensuring that facilities are properly staffed as healthcare workers test positive for COVID-19. This week, public health officials reported an additional 747 new cases among healthcare workers.

“We are at the most difficult moment of the pandemic,” Ferrer warned Monday. “The alarming increases in cases that we continue to witness is not due to random events out of our control — many of these cases could have been prevented if individuals and businesses were following the straightforward public health measures of masking, distancing and infection control.  As we are all seeing, when even relatively small numbers of businesses and individuals fail to adhere to sensible precautions, many others experience the consequences of these lapses.”

Public health officials project that within a week, the county will possibly experience a daily number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 around 2,500. A week after that, the average daily number of deaths could be around 50 people. 

Adding to the alarm is the fact that these numbers do not yet reflect the effects of gatherings and travel over the Thanksgiving holiday. “We know that the effects of actions we took this past weekend will be seen in about two weeks from now in the number of daily cases,” health officials said Monday. 

Individuals who traveled and gathered over the holiday should quarantine for 14 days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises those who travel to test twice during the quarantine period, once a couple of days after returning home, and another test taken five to seven days later. The 14-day isolation period should be completed despite a negative test as the virus has a two-week incubation period.

December 1, 2020

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