LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County health officials reported 10 more deaths due to coronavirus Tuesday, bringing the county’s total to 54, while also confirming the first known death of a health-care worker in the county from the virus.
In the Antelope Valley, there were 31 cases in Lancaster and 14 cases in Palmdale as of 12 p.m. Tuesday, March 31, according to the LA County Department of Public Health website. COVID-19 has been confirmed in Quartz Hill and Sun Village residents (between 1 and 4 each, but unspecified because of the communities’ small population), according to the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.
No details about the death of the health-care worker, who was over age 60, were released. Barbara Ferrer, director of the county’s Department of Public Health, said the worker was among the seven deaths that were reported by the county on Monday.
Of the 10 deaths reported Tuesday, four were under age 65, and one was under 41.
“While the majority of people who are passing do in fact have underlying health conditions, they all don’t, which is a reminder of the ferociousness of this virus,” Ferrer said.
Ferrer also announced 548 new cases of the virus in the county, pushing the overall total to 3,011. The city of Long Beach, which operates a health department separate from the county, added eight more cases to that total early Monday afternoon, raising the county’s overall total to 3,019.
Ferrer noted that the total number of cases in the county has tripled over the past week, mirroring the increase in testing capacity over the same time. But she said the consistency of the testing results indicates that many more people in the county are infected with the virus and simply haven’t been tested yet.
“If there are more infected people, then there’s a greater possibility of them infecting others,” she said. “It’s so important that we remember our obligation to neither infect another person or allow another person to infect us.”
She said 79% of the county’s cases are people between the ages of 18 and 65.
Ferrer noted that many people are infected who “may not experience any debilitating disease, but they are capable of infecting others.”
A total of 594 people of the county’s virus-positive patients have been hospitalized at some point, with 267 people hospitalized as of Tuesday, most of them aged 55 or older, and one-fourth of them are in intensive care, including six people under age 35.
She also pointed to new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that widens the number of people who should go into quarantine if they are exposed to a patient who has the coronavirus or is suspected of having it. Previously, authorities have said only people who had “close contact’ with a symptomatic patient need to quarantine, but the new guidelines state that people should quarantine if they were exposed to a patient within 48 hours of them developing symptoms.
“This is in recognition of emerging science that suggests there are a certain number of people who, before they become symptomatic, are in fact infecting others,” she said.
County fire Chief Daryl Osby announced that 10 members of his agency have tested positive for the coronavirus. Seven of them have recovered, but three more are in isolation, he said.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said seven members of his department have tested positive, and more than 100 others are under quarantine.
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%
Health officials are investigating 35 “institutional settings” that have at least one case of the virus. Twenty of those are nursing homes, and one is a temporary shelter for the homeless. Among those 35 institutions, 155 cases have been reported among residents and staff.
Eleven institutions are being investigated for centralized outbreaks, meaning they have three or more cases. Ferrer said Monday that six of the deaths reported in the county have occurred at such institutions.
“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 Monday. “… Most of the residents who are in facilities where there are cases have, in fact, been quarantined.”
As of Tuesday, roughly 19,300 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 symptoms of the illness.
County officials said hospitals across the area are making plans for an anticipated surge in cases in the coming weeks.
The Los Angeles Convention Center has been set up as a federal field hospital, with California National Guard members helping to prepare the facility over the weekend.