L.A. County Coronavirus Cases Surpass 800

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The number of coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County now surpasses 800, and there have been 13 deaths, prompting officials to announce more stringent quarantine and isolation rules for people who either have the virus or are presumed to be infected.

Barbara Ferrer, head of the county Department of Public Health, said Wednesday the latest three deaths were all people over age 65 with underlying health conditions. The deaths brought the county's total to 13 -- with Ferrer saying the death of a 17-year-old boy in Lancaster that was reported Tuesday is no longer considered a coronavirus case, pending a determination by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ferrer said 138 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed by the county Department of Public Health, bringing the total to 799. However, the city of Long Beach announced 13 new cases not yet included in the county's number, meaning the actual total in the county is 812.

Long Beach, which maintains a health department separate from the county, has a total of 41 cases. The city reported Wednesday that eight city firefighters had tested positive for the virus. Only four of them live in the city, so only those four are included in the city's total number of cases.

Ferrer said the county's health officer will issue an order “that requires the self-isolation of any person that has tested positive for COVID-19 or is presumed by their physician or clinician to be positive for COVID-19.”

The order also requires a 14-day quarantine for all close contacts of a confirmed or presumed COVID-19 patient, including household members and caregivers.

“So if you've been tested for COVID-19 and you're waiting for your test results or you've been told by a provider that you should presume that you're positive for COVID-19, we ask that you follow the directives to self- isolate. This means staying at home for at least seven days and until you're fever- and symptom-free for 72 hours. Do not leave your home. Please do not leave your home unless its for a medical appointment,” Ferrer said.

“We ask that you notify all of your close contacts that you have COVID-19 or are likely to have COVID-19 so your close contacts can in fact begin their quarantine,” she said.

According to Ferrer, the order requires any such close contacts to immediately begin a 14-day quarantine period.

As of Tuesday, there were 2,102 cases statewide, with 40 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Ferrer noted Wednesday that of the people who have tested positive in Los Angeles County, 1% have died -- a higher mortality rate than the flu. She said the national mortality rate is about 1.5%.

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Ferrer has repeatedly stressed that the number of cases in the county is likely to continue rising due to the increasing availability of testing. She said that as of Tuesday, about 6,300 people had been tested in the county, with about 11% turning out to be positive for the illness.

She noted that despite the ever-increasing availability of testing, it still “remains limited,” and she continued to insist that testing be limited to people showing symptoms of the illness or who have been ordered by their doctor to be tested.

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.

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 have been ramped up 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.

The Malibu Pier, including its shops and restaurants, closed to the public starting Wednesday 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 came after the pier was crowded with visitors last weekend, Myerhoff said.

Additionally, the beach in Hermosa Beach and beachfront walkway, the Strand, will be closed at 6 a.m. Saturday in an attempt to stop gatherings that could increase the spread of the coronavirus, according to city manager Suja Lowenthal.

Hermosa Beach's Downtown Parking Structure will also be closed to the public to discourage people traveling to the beach and the Strand, Lowenthal said.

The closures will remain in effect until city officials have determined it is safe to re-open the beach, Strand and parking structure, he said.

The decision to close the beach and the Strand came in response to groups of people gathering last weekend, increasing the risk of spreading the coronavirus because people were unable to maintain the required 6-foot distance from non-family members, Lowenthal said.

City staff will erect signs and barriers at access points to the beach and Strand, and the Hermosa Beach Police Department will patrol the beach to enforce the closures, interim Hermosa Beach Police Department Chief Michael McCrary said.

Also ordered closed was Runyon Canyon Park.

“It's not something easy or pleasurable to do, but it's the right thing to do and we're considering more closures to popular outdoor areas,” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted Wednesday.

On Sunday, Garcetti ordered the closure of all beach parking lots and golf courses, and on Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom closed parking lots of state parks.

The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority has also closed its trails in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Photos: Getty Images

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