LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles County's coronavirus death toll is up to 11 today.
During a midday briefing Tuesday, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, head of the county Department of Public Health, announced three new deaths across the county, including a person under 18 from the Lancaster area. Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris told the Los Angeles Times the patient was a teenage boy who died of septic shock, and the boy's father is also infected with coronavirus.
Ferrer called the case “a devastating reminder that COVID-19 affects people of all ages.” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti added: “To the young people that are out there -- this can hit you too. Know that your behavior can save a life and can take a life, and that life could be yours.”
Late Tuesday afternoon, however, the county Department of Public Health issued a statement casting doubt on the teen's coronavirus diagnosis, saying the death “will require further evaluation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
“Though early tests indicated a positive result for COVID-19, the case is complex and there may be an alternate explanation for this fatality,” according to the county. “Patient privacy prevents our offering further details at this time.”
The county's other two newly reported deaths were between 50 and 70 years old. One of them lived in the West Adams area and had underlying health conditions. Health officials were still investigating where the other person lived.
Ferrer also reported 128 new cases in the county, bringing the overall number to 662. In Long Beach, which maintains its own public health agency, officials reported an additional seven cases Tuesday morning, bringing that city's total to 28, and raising the overall county total to 669.
Among the 28 Long Beach cases is one student at Cal State Long Beach. University officials said Tuesday that two CSULB students have tested positive, but the second student is not a Long Beach resident and thus was not included in the city's figures.
Pasadena, which also has its own health department, has reported a total of six cases, which are included in the county's overall total.
Statewide, there are 2,102 cases, with 40 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Ferrer said that of the coronavirus cases in the county, 42% are in people aged 18-40, while 39% involve people aged 41-65. As of Monday, more than 5,700 people have been tested in the county, with about 10% coming back positive.
Ferrer has repeatedly stressed that the number of cases in the county is likely to continue rising due to the increasing availability of testing. But she said people who are tested should assume they are positive and immediately isolate themselves and notify their close contacts so those people can also go into quarantine.
Health officials have insisted since the outbreak began that while older people, those with underlying health conditions and pregnant women can suffer more severe consequences from contracting coronavirus, the threat of being diagnosed with the illness is spread across all age groups. And while younger patients may suffer lesser symptoms, they can still spread the illness to people who may become more severely ill.
County officials on Wednesday addressed the potential mental-health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying resources are available for people feeling overwhelmed.
The county's mental health department has a hotline available at 800- 854-7771 that offers residents support and information about available resources.
Residents of the county and across the state are under orders to remain at home as much as possible, and engage in social distancing when they're outside the home.
The restrictions were ramped up over the weekend in response to continued large-scale gatherings of people at beaches -- most notably the Venice boardwalk -- and on hiking trails.
Saturday's enhanced order also clarified that golf courses and personal grooming services -- including hair and nail salons -- are nonessential services and are closed. Businesses considered essential and permitted to remain open include hardware stores, repair shops, media outlets, banks, laundromats, dry-cleaners and pet supply stores.
In a related development, all Roman Catholic churches in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles will be closed until further notice because of the coronavirus outbreak, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez announced Tuesday night. “Our community of faith is fully committed to doing all we can to limit the spread of this global public health threat,” Gomez said.
“We are taking these extraordinary steps to ensure the safety and well-being of the faithful and the public, as well as all who continue to serve in our parishes and ministries.”
Gomez encouraged all Catholics “to continue to pray and join in communion for the celebration of Holy Mass remotely via the internet, television or radio.”
Also, the Malibu Pier, including its shops and restaurants, is closing to the public starting today to prevent crowding during the coronavirus pendemic.
The pier is considered a state park, and Malibu City Manager Reva Feldman coordinated with California State Parks to close it, according to Matt Myerhoff, Malibu's media information officer.
The closure comes after the pier was crowded with visitors last weekend, Myerhoff said.
Photos: Getty Images