LOS ANGELES – Citing continuing outbreaks at large employment centers, Los Angeles County’s health officer urged business owners again Thursday to follow coronavirus-prevention measures, stressing that lower-income essential workers are paying the price for lapses.
Dr. Muntu Davis highlighted several current outbreaks, including an 84-patient outbreak among 10 UPS facilities scattered across the county.
“We continue to see outbreaks in manufacturing facilities, food processing facilities, the warehouses environments where workers are indoors together for long periods of time and may or may not have adequate personal protective equipment,” Davis said. “Our outbreaks management branch and environmental health inspector teams have been very busy conducting site visits at various (work sites) across the county to make sure that employers are doing all they can to keep their employees safe.
“I know the biggest question that people may have with this is, can I get COVID-19 from a package or mail,” Davis said. “According to the Centers for Disease Control, the virus can survive for short period of time on some surfaces, but it’s unlikely to spread from mail, products or packaging. Most research shows that COVID-19 is spread primarily through droplets. It may be possible that someone can get COVID-19 from touching a surface or an item that has the virus on it and then touching their nose, mouth or possibly their eyes. But this is not the main way the virus spreads.”
He recommended that people wash their hands after opening a package or mail.
Davis said workplace outbreaks often have a large impact on lower- income workers and people of color, contributing to the disproportionate numbers of cases and hospitalizations among those communities. He displayed charts showing sharp increases in cases among Latino and Black residents starting in early July, roughly coinciding with wide-ranging business reopenings.
The county has reported improvements in overall virus trends in recent weeks, with hospitalizations trending downward, along with average daily deaths and case numbers.
On Thursday, the county reported another 64 deaths due to the coronavirus and another 1,999 new cases.
Since the start of the pandemic, health officials have confirmed 216,139coronavirus cases and 5,171 deaths due to the virus in all areas of Los Angeles County, including 3,161 coronavirus cases and 40 deaths in Palmdale; 2,519 cases and 32 deaths in Lancaster; 135 cases and 10 deaths in Quartz Hill; 165 cases and two deaths in Lake Los Angeles; 131 cases and no deaths in the Littlerock/Pearblossom, Juniper Hills areas; and 118 cases and one death in Sun Village. View the latest detailed report here.
About 92% of people who have died from the illness had underlying health conditions, a percentage that has remained constant throughout the pandemic. County public health director Barbara Ferrer noted that while the percentage is high, it still means that 8% of people had no health issues and succumbed to the disease nonetheless.
“This disease can be devastating whether you have underlying health conditions or you don’t,” she said.
Ferrer again noted that younger residents continue to represent the bulk of new coronavirus cases. She said residents aged 18 to 49 represent more than 60% of all new cases, and they “are driving infections in Los Angeles County at this time.”
She said the 18-29 age group has “the highest case rate among all age groups” in the county.
Residents between 30 and 65 represent roughly half of all hospitalizations in the county, while those 18-29 are about 9% to 10% of hospital patients.
As of Thursday, there were 1,481 people hospitalized in the county due to coronavirus, with 32% of them in intensive care units. As recently as about two weeks ago, daily hospitalizations were above 2,000.
The drop in hospitalization numbers and death rates has led health officials to express optimism about the success of efforts to control the spread of the virus. But the virus is still widespread.
Davis said Thursday that despite the positive trends, residents and businesses must continue taking health precautions.
“It’s important that all of us as individuals, as business owners, as business operators, take the necessary steps to prevent the spread of COVID- 19,” he said. “This is our new normal. We must wear face coverings. We must ensure physical distancing and we must practice hand hygiene. We do this to protect our workforce, our community and ourselves, to continue our path to recovery. to get our children to school and get more of our community members back to making a living.”