The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed 75 new deaths of COVID-19 Wednesday and among the reported fatalities is a child. No details are known about underlying health conditions for this child. This brings the total number of deaths among children from COVID-19 to two.
The news comes as elementary schools were allowed to resume in-person instruction. As of March 16, 1,810 schools are providing on-campus services for high-needs students. A total of 55 school districts and 466 individual private and charter schools are approved for in-person instruction of students in grades transitional kindergarten through 12th. Since many families are still not comfortable sending their children back to school for onsite learning, schools that are open for in-person learning need to also offer 100% distance learning as an option for those families that prefer it.
Outbreaks at schools have been relatively infrequent in L.A. County. There have been 86 kindergarten through 12th grade school affiliated outbreaks since Sept 1, 2020. Two of the outbreaks had more than 12 cases and 66 of the outbreaks had less than six cases. Outbreaks at schools increased during the surge and steadily declined starting in January, after school outbreaks peaked at 15 for two weeks in a row. Starting in early February, there have been no new outbreaks in schools.
School staff have been eligible to be vaccinated since March 1. Many partners including school districts, schools, providers, unions, and health care providers worked together to coordinate closed pods for every single school district and additional vaccination sites for independent schools. So far, 102,730 vaccine doses have been allocated to teachers and staff in public and independent schools through closed pods. L.A. County Public Health also continues to set aside appointments at the large capacity county sites for teachers and school staff. On Sunday, March 21, there will be vaccinations available for teachers and staff of independent schools at all five county large vaccination sites.
L.A. County COVID metrics have also continued to improve. The seven-day average number of daily cases has decreased to 524 new cases per day as of March 9, the lowest since April 2. Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 have also declined and the daily average numbers are now fewer than 1,000, at pre-surge early-November levels. The seven-day average number of daily deaths has declined to 24 as of March 9. Only a month earlier, the average number of daily deaths was 118.
The first group of people to be vaccinated in L.A. County were healthcare workers and residents at long-term care facilities. Coronavirus cases among healthcare workers have plummeted since late December, when they began to be vaccinated. During the last week of December, there were 1,730 new cases of COVID-19 among healthcare workers. By contrast, in the past three weeks, there have been less than 100 new cases across the entire county each week, the smallest number of weekly cases among healthcare workers during the pandemic.
Currently, 79% of skilled nursing home staff and 78% of residents received at least a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 74% of all staff and 69% of residents received their second dose and are fully vaccinated. It’s important to note that there is high turnover rate among residents in these facilities, and this number only reflects rates among current residents, not the total number of residents who have been vaccinated. When the vaccine first was administered to residents at skilled nursing homes in L.A. County in late December, the average daily number of cases was over 200 a day and has dropped to 3 a day as of March 9. This is excellent evidence that these vaccines are working and adding a much-needed layer of protection among those with significant exposures, our healthcare workers, and those most vulnerable, our residents at skilled nursing facilities.
To date, Public Health has confirmed a total of 55 cases of COVID-19 U.K. variant, two cases of the B.1.525 variant, which was also first identified in the U.K., 21 cases of the New York variant and 1 case of the P.2 variant from Brazil in Los Angeles County. There have been no cases identified of the South African variant. In addition, there have been 35 California variant B.1.427 cases identified and 276 of the California variant B.1.429. The B.1.427 and the B.1.429 are both, slightly different sequences of what is commonly called the California variant. Variants remain a concern, even as more and more people are vaccinated.
Last week, the state hit its goal of vaccinating 2 million people who are living in communities across the state with the lowest scored on the Healthy Places Index (HPI). They have set an additional goal of vaccinating 4 million people in these areas. L.A. County is vaccinating a larger percent of people in communities with fewer resources when compared to California overall. Last week, 32% of the people vaccinated in L.A. County were people who live in communities with the lowest HPI score, compared to the state, where 19% of people vaccinated live in the communities with the lowest HPI score.