LOS ANGELES (CNS) - L.A County's coronavirus toll today stood at 2,136 cases and 37 deaths.
Five more deaths from COVID-19 and 332 new cases were announced by Los Angeles County health officials over the weekend.
No further information was released about the latest fatalities, but five of the six deaths reported on Saturday occurred in people over the age of 60, and one was between 50 and 60 years old. Two of those people did not have any reported underlying health conditions, according to officials.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to all the families and friends of individuals who have died. I ask that everyone please do your part to not infect others or become infected yourself by adhering to the public health directives and practicing social distancing,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of Los Angeles County Public Health. “More than ever, it is crucial that we practice social distancing, and if we are sick, even with mild illness, make every effort to self-isolate from others for at least 7 days and 3 more days after being symptom free. ... Those who have been in close contact with a person who is positive for COVID-19 should self-quarantine for 14 days. If we all commit ourselves to stay home, stay away from others when sick, and stay 6 feet apart when out, we will save lives.”
Ferrer said 453 COVID-19 patients -- or 21% of the county's positive cases -- have been hospitalized. Officials also said 24 Los Angeles Police Department employees and six members of the Los Angeles Fire Department have tested positive for COVID-19.
“All of these individuals are self-isolating at home and recovering,” spokeswoman Jessica Kellogg said.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, meanwhile, said Sunday the city is establishing the Los Angeles Convention Center as a federal field hospital. California's National Guard helped prepare the center Sunday, he said.
Garcetti also said the city is in the process of opening up five new emergency shelters to move the homeless indoors. Currently, the city is operating 540 shelters, which are about 91% filled.
He announced that the city was working with UPS and Everlywell to get coronavirus test kits to seniors and community healthcare providers on Skid Row.
The first homeless person who tested positive for COVID-19 turned up at Dockweiler State Beach, he said. That person was taken to a medical facility for treatment.
The U.S. Navy medical ship Mercy, which contains beds and which arrived Friday, has received its first three patients. Mercy will not be taking coronavirus patients, he said.
Garcetti said the city's logistics officer is working to get 1 million masks to first-responders.
Garcetti is also asking hotel and motel owners to provide rooms for Angelenos who are homeless or who need to isolate with coronavirus. He said he believed those rooms would be paid for out of funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“The owners will be paid by the city for the rooms. We're not asking them to donate the rooms,” Garcetti said. “We believe these expenses will be reimbursed by FEMA. It's a reimbursable expense.”
He urged hotel and motel owners to go to Coronavirus.LACity.org/Rooms.
The mayor said 6,741 coronavirus tests have been conducted by the city, and that he expects to triple that number by the end of the week. He also said a fifth test site will be opened Monday.
As the grim weekend numbers came in, Angelenos were for the most part adhering to the county's order to stay off beaches and nature trails to slow the spread of the virus.
One exception occurred Saturday in Manhattan Beach, where a surfer who refused to exit the water when prompted by lifeguards was given a citation.
Manhattan Beach Police Sgt. Justin Hidalgo said the man was cited for surfing within a restricted area because a county lifeguard had put out the “blackball” flag (yellow flag with a black circle in the middle of it) and he still decided to surf.
Hidalgo said it was unclear what the fine is because a judge, through the court process, would have to determine the amount.
Most of the county's individual coastal cities had already closed off beaches, parking lots and pathways over the last week, and the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area closed of all its facilities on March 22.
“I ask that you help us by not going to our beaches and not going to our hiking trails, at least for the next few weeks,” Ferrer said. “ ... Many of our parks do remain open so there are opportunities for people to go outside and enjoy our beautiful county, but only if we practice social distancing.”
The county's mortality rate from the illness has risen above the levels seen across the country and in New York City, which has been particularly hard-hit by the virus, Ferrer said. Of the people who have tested positive for the virus in Los Angeles County, 1.8% have died. She said that is a higher mortality rate than the nation as a whole, and above that seen in New York City, which has a rate of about 1.4%.
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