LOS ANGELES – Seven more people have died in Los Angeles County from the coronavirus, with 342 new cases confirmed, authorities announced Monday, but the county’s public health director warned that far more people are likely infected with the virus and just haven’t been counted yet.
In the Antelope Valley, there were 27 cases in Lancaster and nine cases in Palmdale as of 12 p.m. Monday, March 30, according to the LA County Department of Public Health website.
The seven new deaths pushed Lo Angeles County’s total to 44, according to Barbara Ferrer, head of the Department of Public Health. The 342 new cases gave the county a total of 2,474 coronavirus cases. However, Long Beach health officials subsequently reported another seven cases, pushing the countywide total to 2,481.
“At this point in time, although our numbers continually rise, we do have to assume that there are other people that are infected who haven’t yet been tested, so the true number of people infected in L.A. County is likely to be significantly higher,” Ferrer said.
Of the seven new deaths, six were aged 65 or older, while the other was between 41 and 65, Ferrer said. Six of the seven people had underlying health conditions, including the younger patient.
Ferrer said the county is still seeing a roughly 1.8% mortality rate, meaning that of everyone who has tested positive for coronavirus in the county, 1.8% have died. Ferrer said last week the mortality rate in New York is about 1.4%
While the deaths are spread throughout the county, Ferrer said health officials are investigating 25 institutions such as nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities that have coronavirus cases. She said there have been six deaths at such facilities so far.
Eleven institutions are now being investigated for centralized outbreaks, meaning they have three or more cases.
“Where there’s one case at an institutional setting, our Department of Public Health team does go in and it works with the facility and management and staff to ensure they’re doing the best they can to protect the health of their residents,” Ferrer said. “… Most of the residents who are in facilities where there are cases have, in fact, been quarantined.”
As of Sunday, more than 15,500 people in the county have been tested for the virus, with about 12% of them turning out to be positive for the illness.
Ferrer continued to stress that the availability of testing, while expanding, remains limited, meaning it should be restricted to people who are referred by physicians or are showing definitive symptoms of the illness.
“The greatest service everyone can provide at this point is to stay home,” she said. “… These are extraordinary times and I want everyone to note that we need to be prepared for this to go on for a while to come.”
Among the people testing positive for coronavirus are two homeless people, one worker at a temporary housing facility for the homeless, one county jail inmate and four county jail workers, according to Ferrer.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the inmate was at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility but has since been moved to the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. Ferrer did not know the positions of the jail staffers who have tested positive, but according to The Times, they are a sheriff’s deputy, a custody assistant, a nursing assistant and a doctor.
County officials said hospitals across the area are making plans for an anticipated surge in cases in the coming weeks.